Whit’s End: A love letter to local libraries
June 15, 2017
"Modern libraries are awesome and deserve a shoutout!"
That's the title of a Reddit post that drew thousands of views this week. Redditor @young_wild_freelance raved about the amenities of her local library: media rooms, small business classes, technology, ebooks and more. The topic generated more than 1,000 comments, ranging in tone from "my library is awesome, too!" to "where do you live? I'm so jealous!"
The library at the heart of this discussion was Library21c in Colorado Springs, and a number of other Coloradans piped up to echo their praise or tout their own libraries. Those named were in the state's larger cities.
Here, I have to confess a bit of city-girl snobbery: Before I moved to Glenwood Springs, I was nervous about the library system. I knew it had experienced recent budget cuts — as many have — and included six branches. I came from a metropolitan area where a single library card offered access to 40 branches.
I needn't have worried.
The Glenwood Springs branch of the Garfield County Library is steps from the back door of my office. Before I arrived for my first day of work on Jan. 9, I ducked into the library and registered for a card. Within hours, I learned how much our small system offers.
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I posted a picture of my library cards on social media, and a librarian friend quickly showed her approval: "You're part of the PROSPECTOR lending network for volumes owned by other libraries in the state!" Marliese wrote. "I've worked with a number of the universities in the state, and keeping integration with PROSPECTOR was uber important."
That meant more to me as I began requesting books. I often encounter a book I'm curious about and immediately visit gcpld.org to request it. (I keep my library card number stored in my web browser for just this reason.) I've found every book, no matter how obscure, save for one self-published title by an out-of-state author. Prospector's members are academic, public and special libraries in Colorado and Wyoming, and it grants them access to 30 million materials.
You read that correctly: 30 million books, CDs, DVDs and other materials.
That's far more than the average local library could store. But because our system is part of this network, we have access to all of this knowledge, typically with only a few days' wait.
I relied heavily on my public library while researching my two books, and Garfield County Libraries offer access to many of the same databases I used then. You can check out a Colorado State Parks pass from the library. Year-round programming builds literacy, skills and community. Did you know the system even offers a summer reading program for adults? Read 20 minutes or more a day, fill out a short form and you'll be eligible for prizes. Good ones, too — the end-of-summer drawing is for two passes to Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
I read many of the 1,000-plus comments on that library shout-out post. Though it was late, I was compelled to add my own before bed. The Garfield County Public Library District is a gem, and its existence improves my life every day.
"Rural Colorado reporting for duty!
"You and others have already summed up many of the great technological offerings of today's libraries, so I won't jump in there (except to say AMEN).
"However, I mostly rely on my library for printed resources. I was nervous to move to this county of 55,000 from a metro of 1 million. My old library system was part of a co-op of about 40 libraries, and so it was easy to get most any book I needed within a few days. My current system is comprised of six branches.
"Boy, have I been surprised.
"Though my system is small, it has great lending relationships with other libraries, public and academic, across Colorado. This means I can get virtually anything I want within a week (assuming it's not on hold). I check out so many books that a week is NEVER too long; I've always got three or four books ahead of what I've requested.
"My librarians also get pumped whenever I ask for the bound newspaper archives (which has already occurred several times in the five months I've lived here).
"And a bonus: Despite the fact that are only six branches, I live within 500 feet of one and work within 300 feet of another. I'm fortunate."
Carla Jean Whitley considers proximity to libraries an appropriate basis for life decisions. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.