CARBONDALE — Two hundred people or more gathered outside the new Carbondale Branch Library on Saturday for a grand-opening ceremony that featured music, speeches and a feeling of community pride that was palpable in the warm sunshine.
Following the ceremony, the assembled crowd trooped inside to see the $5.4 million facility at Third Street and Sopris Avenue, which is replacing the old Gordon Cooper Library building a couple blocks away.
The celebration of the new library was conducted by Amelia Shelley, director of the Garfield County Library District. The Carbondale branch is one of six that have been or are being renovated.
Shelley, speaking at the head of a list of seven officials, noted that the public library is “our American institution,” an innovation that cannot be found in the same form anywhere else in the world. She thanked everyone from the Garfield County voters, who in 2006 approved a mill levy to modernize and expand the district’s facilities, to the library board members who she said were integral to shepherding the district-wide project from inception to completion.
Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, speaking after Shelley, told onlookers, “Congratulations to the Town of Carbondale, to the library district, to all the friends of the library, which I assume everyone here is, and especially to the contractors” who put the building together.
And Carbondale Trustee John Hoffmann spoke of the collaborative, county-wide effort that brought about the Carbondale Branch Library project, along with the others in Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute.
“Innately, we understood the importance of communication and knowledge for the furtherance of our society,” he said.
Like the other five libraries in the district, as explained on a pamphlet handed out on Saturday, the new Carbondale branch sports a number of statistical improvements over its predecessor:
• It is larger (13,000 square feet of space, compared to 3,200 square feet at Gordon Cooper), and will contain more books and “media items” than its predecessor (20,500 books and 5,000 media items, compared to 18,020 books and 3,870 media items in the old facility).
• It will have 20 public computers and four study rooms, compared to six computers and no study rooms in the old library.
• And the capacity of the Community Room in the new building is 100 people, compared to a maximum of 25 people at Gordon Cooper.
In addition, the new building has earned gold LEED certification for energy efficiency, with an estimated performance level that is 31 percent better than other, more traditional buildings of a similar size, according to the district.
It was built with recycled or locally generated materials, including beetle-killed pine paneling in the ceiling and shelves, and numerous water saving features inside and outside.
The windows are made of high-efficiency glass, and the heating system was fitted with a high-efficiency boiler.
landing in Carbondale
The Gordon Cooper library facility, soon to become an art gallery and museum, started its formal existence as a small store front in the Dinkle Building in 1964, the result of an effort by a local book club to raise money to buy books and rent out the space.
The mother of U.S. astronaut Gordon Cooper was a member of that book club , and the club named it after her son, Shelley said, because, “They believed that libraries are of the future.”
The building became part of the county system the year it was built, and the county assumed control over the library’s budget and future.
In the early 1980s the district built a new facility at the corner of Fourth and Garfield streets, which is now to become a town-owned art space, mainly for the works of internationally renowned sculptor James Surls, a Carbondale-area resident.
In appreciation of his adopted home town, Surls also has pledged to provide the new library with a rotating series of sculptures that is to hang over the adult non-fiction area.
The works of other artists also will be on display at the library, in some cases on a permanent basis, such as the line of pillars at the northern side where the main entrance is, designed and built (with help from volunteers) by local artist Shannon Muse.
The pillars, made of concrete and structural steel, are covered in bits of glass and boast small, glass windows of text that comprise quotes of thinkers through the ages, sent in by local citizens as their special contributions to the overall library project.
The glass bits, some colored, or “iridized” and others clear, were meant to reflect “the knowledge flowing down” from the clear glass panels that form the upper portions of the library’s northern exposure.
The windows of text, made of opalescent iridized glass with the text etched into the surface, are spotted here and there on the surfaces. They were intended, Muse said, “to be, like, rocks interrupting the flow” of knowledge and wisdom represented by the glass pieces.
She noted that the cost of the pillars project was not part of the library project’s initial budget, but funds were raised by local community activist Sue Edelstein.
Other artists represented include Carbondale Town Trustee John Hoffmann, a blacksmith and iron worker, and Travis Fulton, whose light sculpture hangs above the library’s main desk.
Marble sculptor Robert Stone of Grand Junction, working with stone from the Colorado Yule Quarry in Marble, fashioned tables for both the interior and exterior of the building.
And local log-home builder John Ackerman and his staff, using several spruce trees that were felled to make way for the library, crafted three long benches situated near the entrance to the building.
Shelley told the assembled crowd on Saturday that the last new library to open as part of the overall project will be the branch library in Glenwood Springs, which is scheduled to open on Sept. 14.
With that, Shelley said, “Now, I’m about to invite the future to cut this ribbon,” and some 30 school children rushed up to the doors, cut the ribbon, and the historic celebration was concluded.
“Innately, we understood the importance of communication and knowledge for the furtherance of our society.”
Garfield County commissioner