4/14/12

Three New Libraries for Pueblo County: Expanding Library Services for the Underserved

  The mission of the Pueblo City-County Library District (PCCLD) is straightforward and simple.  The library seeks to encourage the joy of reading, support lifelong learning, and present access to information from around the world.  This mission is based upon the principle that a successful representative democracy, such as ours, is dependent upon our nation having an educated and informed citizenry.  We believe that the public library plays a vital part in our ability to adhere to this principle.PCCLD has been working with purpose to meet our mission.  The results have been encouraging.  For example, last year, the library experienced record use.  1,759,499 items were checked out from PCCLD locations is 2011.  This is the most ever in the history of the library district.   In fact, since 2005, the number of checkouts from the library has increased more than 71%, and so far in 2012 not only do the number checkouts continue to grow, but so do the number of people visiting our libraries, attending library programs and events, and using library digital resources.  The use of the library has never been higher.
  To top what has been accomplished recently is a large task.  But more needs to be done to insure that ours is a community of readers and lifelong learners.  The library has big plans for 2012 and beyond to continue fostering our mission and purpose in the community.  Much of what we have done and will be doing is based upon careful and strategic planning and action.
   Beginning as early as 2004 and continuing throughout the following years and into the present, PCCLD conducted comprehensive studies designed to determine how to provide the best possible library service for our community.  The results of these studies were published in 2005 and 2009 (Pueblo City-County Library District: Roadmap to the Future, June 23, 2005, and Moving Ahead: Strategic Plan for the Pueblo City-County Library District: Building a Community of Readers, December 10, 2009).  The conclusions reached in each study were the result of careful analysis of local demographic data, input from members of the community and library staff via focus groups and opinion surveys, comparisons of PCCLD to peer libraries and state and national library standards, and forecasts of PCCLD revenues and expenditures. 
  Among the outcomes of these studies has been a planned repositioning of library services to best meet the needs of our community.  This has resulted in a number of accomplishments, including the new Pueblo West Library that opened in 2009, the addition of the Library @ the Y on Pueblo’s West Side also in 2009, the expanded access to quality collections of books and other library materials throughout the library district, the additional focus on digital services such as public access Internet and more, the greater emphasis on public events with cultural and intellectual content, the establishment of the Hispanic Resource Center, the Nonprofit Resource Center, the Adult Literacy Center, and the Business and Vocation Center; the improvements to genealogy and special local archival services and resources, and the betterment of services for children and teens, as well as other critical initiatives.
  Now, the library is in position to take another substantial step forward.  Among the findings of the studies from 2005 and 2009 was the identification of underserved areas of Pueblo County and the recommendation that PCCLD improve access with the addition of full-service public libraries in areas where such services are not currently sufficiently available.  These areas include the East Side of the City of Pueblo, on the St. Charles Mesa east of the City of Pueblo, and in the Greenhorn Valley area in the southern portion of the County.  
  Beginning in 2012, PCCLD is moving forward with plans to build and operate three new libraries in each of these areas, with design development to occur this year, groundbreaking on construction to take place next year, and the new libraries to open to the public in 2014.
  How will we do this?  These projects are affordable now due to PCCLD’s longstanding practice of responsible saving and spending, and the following factors:
·         PCCLD will refinance the moderate debt on the Pueblo West Library at the current record-low interest rates, and reinvest the resulting savings into the new libraries. 
·         PCCLD will merge the satellite library services in several school locations into these new full-service libraries. The satellite locations are considered sub-standard public library services, and, as such, are not even recognized as such by the State of Colorado.
·        PCCLD will be fundraising and grant writing for support for the new libraries.  Based on our experience at the Pueblo West Library and the Rawlings Library, we conservatively estimate that more than 10% of the project cost can be raised in this fashion.
·         PCCLD will take advantage of economic development in the county in recent years—including the new cement plant and power plants—that will support moderate expansion of library services.
·         PCCLD is implementing new service technologies at existing library sites that will allow some savings in staff time, and these savings will allow us to shift some staffing hours from current locations to the new locations.
·         PCCLD will save money because the cost to build these new libraries is now low due to the depression in the construction industry.  We estimate that the new libraries will be less expensive to build per square foot than was the case with the Pueblo West Library only a few short years ago.
·         PCCLD will build these libraries in a “prototype” fashion with a common building program resulting in a singular building layout of about 7,500 square feet for each of the three libraries.  Some cosmetic elements of the buildings will be unique to each individual library, such as the building fa├žade or roof line, but in many respects the buildings will the same and, thus, afford cost savings for design and construction.
·         Importantly, due to all the reasons listed above, PCCLD will be able to accomplish this with its current revenue stream with no need to increase taxes in order to do so.
  Clearly, this is an important time for the library district.  We already have decided on an architect to the design the new libraries.  We also have commenced fundraising efforts and are finalizing site selection for the new libraries at this time.  Soon, we will select a construction contractor.  Stay tuned for more exciting announcements as this significant effort continues to unfold.

LOCAL HISTORY AT THE LIBRARY by Jon Walker

Our community enjoys a rich and diverse history.  This is the story of the people and events helping to shape the saga of this region over ...