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Library of future ready to open in Colorado Springs

By: Robin Intemann Special to The Gazette
May 25, 2014 Updated: May 25, 2014 at 4:48 pm
Caption +
Interior designer Mary Gulash, center, talks to PPLD's Merry Zumwalt, left, and Gary Syling as they work Tuesday, May 20, 2014, at the Pikes Peak Library District's new Library 21c in Colorado Springs. The new facility opens June 21, 2014. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

When Library 21c, the Pikes Peak Library District's newest facility, opens next month, patrons will see more than a repository for stacks of material.

The facility on the city's north side will promote experiential learning with the latest in technology, access to 3-D printers, sewing machines and other tools, plus space - lots and lots of space.

Traditional resources, including books, audio and visual media and e-books, will endure.

It will replace the nearby Briargate Library, which closed Sunday so that materials could be moved to the new building before its June 21 opening. The district's administrative offices also have moved to the new facility.

As libraries emerge as places to create and interact, PPLD, through Library 21c, is anticipating demands and desires, officials said.

"This is cutting edge," said Dee Vazquez Sabol, PPLD community engagement and outreach officer. "We have been planning for the past five years so we weren't struggling to catch up."

Library 21c is the first of its kind in the country, Sabol said. Several libraries around the country have similar components, but none has so many features that patrons can use in one place.

"We will have two state-of-the-art sewing machines," Sabol said. "So if someone is working on a project at home and doesn't have a function they need on their own machine, they can come here and finish the project."

PPLD bought the building at 1175 Chapel Hills Drive in 2011 for $3.75 million. It had been empty for eight years, formerly occupied by MCI. No debt has been incurred with the new facility, which increases the library district's square footage by 50 percent. "When we walked in here, with the view, the natural light, the accessibility, we knew this was the one," Sabol said.

Patrons will notice the vibrant colors and carpeting, known as "grab bag." Various multicolored squares made from discarded carpet scraps have been randomly placed, creating an eclectic look. Sabol said this approach was also cost efficient.

Design based on users' needs

She explained the two main points associated with the 21st-century library concept involve how materials are used and how they are provided. The concept combines technology, creativity and convenience with community interaction.

The upper level of the two-story facility will not have traditional materials. Instead, it will be home to the Business and Entrepreneur Center and several hands-on creative spaces, meeting rooms and a 400-seat venue for presentations and the performing arts. The main level will house books, other resource materials, the children's area, the teen center, a full-service cafeteria and reading spaces.

Library 21c will be home to the district's largest children's library and feature child-size computer areas, stacks and plenty of room for kids to spread out. Nearby is the Family Place Library. Designed almost as a library within a library, it's part of a nationally recognized program with an emphasis on parental involvement, child development and connecting parents with family service agencies. Another Family Place is at the Fountain Library.

Also on the main level is the teen center with teen-specific media, portable desks and study rooms.

There will be kiosks with access to online tutorials and courses, a new automated materials handling system, updated self-check out machines and an e-help center. The latter has e-readers and laptops for general use. "Patrons will also be able to get technical help with their own devices," Sabol said.

Years ago, reference librarians would wait until library users approached them for assistance. Sabol noted most people can now access what they once sought help for on their own, thanks to the Internet and personal devices. The type of support needed today has changed, and so has the role of the library staff. In 1964, the library tallied 32,000 reference transactions. In 2013, PPLD handled 563,000 reference requests, an average of 159 questions per hour, the library said.

"We've had to change our staffing model in several ways," Sabol said. "We're adding 39 new positions, which is a measurable percentage of our staff. We're looking for the business and technology component to support all types of activities."

Spaces support artists

On the upper level of the new facility, the public will have access to video and audio production materials. Patrons will be able to write, direct, produce and edit their own videos.

Other areas will offer video game development software and platforms for gamers to create their games or work with others to do so.

The 400-seat presentation area offers another learning opportunity, Sabol said.

"Folks can come in and learn about theater design, about light and sound," she said.

Dragon Theatre, a local group, is slated to be the first performer in the space in August.

For years, PPLD has had its own video production arm, but now one will be available to the public.

A portable video story booth will allow users to create short videos, or postcards, that can be uploaded immediately to social media sites. Because it is portable, the story booth can be used in other libraries.

The Business and Entrepreneurial Center is designed to help individuals, startup businesses and existing industries. Computer labs, conference rooms with teleconferencing capabilities and a host of related services are a significant element of Library 21c.

"They can use the conference rooms to contact clients, to hold business meetings either virtually or in person, and they can learn about co-working," Sabol said.

Although the current focus of the district's efforts is on Library 21c, the East and Penrose libraries will also undergo renovations in the coming year as part of the Tri-Building Project, which includes Library 21c.

Public funding is being leveraged by a $3.9 million capital campaign, which got underway in January 2013 when the El Pomar Foundation awarded the district a $750,000 challenge grant. The district said the 21st Century Library Campaign raised more than $1.4 million in 2013.

Changes at East Library include expanded homework and home-school services areas. The teen area will be renovated at Penrose Library.

Some elements of the 21st century library concept will be incorporated at both sites, with additional meeting rooms and public spaces. The upgrades are expected to be completed in 2015.

"We live in a community that uses the heck out of us," Sabol said.


EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated to include information about the closure of the Briargate Library; materials from Briargate will be moved to the new facility.


Library 21c will have its grand opening June 21, with a Sneak Peek Happy Hour fundraiser from 5 to 7 p.m. June 13. The event will include demonstrations, hands-on activities in the Business and Entrepreneurial Center, and refreshments. Cost is $25 per person.

Tickets and more information:



• Established in 1903

• 3,606,753 visitors in 2013, nearly 10,000 people per day

• 233,823 square feet dedicated to public library service

• The library’s collection includes 1,193,039 materials, of which 80,000 are electronic

• 262,500 cardholders, or 44 percent of the service population

• Almost 9 million items, or 25,000 items per day, are checked out annually

• 449 staff members

• 1,450 volunteers

• 800 programs, classes and activities are offered per month, or 9,500 a year

• In 2013, public computer sessions totaled 874,000 (2,400 per day)

• Has a 2,090-mile service area in El Paso County, including all unincorporated areas and cities of Colorado Springs, Fountain, Manitou Springs, Monument, Palmer Lake and Calhan

• PPLD is the second largest library district in Colorado

• PPLD provides 15 facilities, online resources, mobile libraries, innovative technology, meeting spaces and programs

• PPLD is its own taxing authority with 87 percent of revenues generated from property taxes

Source: the PPLD 50th Annual Report to the Community and

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