Schnitzer reflects on Glenwood Library accomplishments | PostIndependent.com

Schnitzer reflects on Glenwood Library accomplishments

Sue Schnitzer played the ukulele and sang songs with her daughter Becky Levin (right) and friend Amy Levenson. Schnitzer and Levenson were friends in high school in Boston but were reconnected after Sue arrived in Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

Sue Schnitzer had a mandate when, in the spring of 2014, she took the job as branch manager of what was then the brand new Glenwood Springs Branch Library at the corner of Eighth and Cooper — inject a little energy into the place.

“I maybe went beyond a little,” Schnitzer admitted this past week as she prepared to leave later this month for her new job heading up the Cordova branch of the Memphis (Tennessee) Public Library and Information Center.

“It’s been really, really fun, though … the challenges, the community,” she said. “It’s tough to leave, but this will be a good opportunity.”

Friday was Schnitzer’s last day, and true to form her farewell party was filled with music and stories, including an impromptu jam session with friends and library patrons.

Her goal when she was selected to replace longtime Glenwood Springs branch librarian Pat Conway was to make the new, much larger downtown facility a true community library. With the help of a dedicated staff, Schnitzer said she feels like she was able to accomplish that.

In addition to the many traditional library programs, Schnitzer introduced things like musical story time, being a professional ukulele-playing musician herself, in addition to a bicycle-powered mobile book library and her little red wagon that she would often be seen pulling around downtown loaded with books. She also brought the mobile book concept to the Summer of Music concerts in Two Rivers Park and other community events.

“I really wanted the library to be more than just a place for books and DVDs, and to add programs that would have more interaction,” she said.

A former FBI agent back East where she grew up, Schnitzer eventually handed in the badge and moved to Colorado where she started a children’s music business in Boulder and began performing at libraries around the state.

She moved to Carbondale in 2012, where she became the youth services librarian at the former Gordon Cooper Branch, and later became assistant manager/circulation coordinator when the new Carbondale Library opened the following year.

The new Glenwood Springs facility, which the Garfield County Library Public Library District, city officials and others went to great strides to keep downtown when the district embarked on a major facilities replacement program in the late 2000s, presented a clean slate of sorts for Schnitzer.

A downtown facility has a lot of advantages over a more remote library location, she said.

“People see it, and that’s the main thing,” Schnitzer said. “It really looks good for the community, especially when tourists come into town and one of the first things they see is this beautiful building.”

From a programming standpoint, the location is perfect for events like the annual children’s Halloween parade, and for school groups and other organizations to pay a visit.

Schnitzer said she’s disappointed she won’t be around when the new dedicated children’s space is finished in the upstairs portion of the Cooper Commons building that the library shares with Colorado Mountain College.

“The kids need their own space, and the advantage of them being upstairs is they don’t have to be so quiet,” she said. “And it frees up the [downstairs] community room for other groups.

“For a lot of people, the library is their second home,” she adds.

That won’t change despite the recent staffing reductions and cuts to library hours and programs that the library district had to implement to make up for a $1.2 million shortfall in revenues for next year, Schnitzer also said.

“I think people will get through it, and a lot of it comes down to attitude,” she said. “The whole community has been very understanding.”

Schnitzer’s new job takes her to the east Memphis area where the Cordova branch is “one of the biggest and busiest” branches.

The Memphis system includes 15 branch libraries serving a diverse population with a lot of international flavor, she explained.

As a musician, she said she is also looking forward to Memphis’ famous music scene. Memphis Central Library has a unique teen program where young people can even record their own music, something the Cordova branch is already looking to replicate in some way.

Cordova also has a unique international story time, where people sign up to lead the program in their native language, she said.

The next Glenwood Springs branch manager will have their hands full to continue the momentum, but Schnitzer said she always tries to think about how a program can continue beyond her involvement whenever she institutes something new.

“Everybody who walks through the door is a member of the community, and they’re all here for a reason and we’re here to serve them,” Schnitzer said.

One program she said she wanted to make sure returns after her departure was the regular Business and Breakfast discussions, which will start up again in January thanks to a sponsorship from Bank of Colorado.

“The partnerships Glenwood Springs is able to build are just amazing, and people really come together to make things happen,” Schnitzer said.

“I will definitely miss everybody, and it’s tough to leave Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley,” she said. “But I’m lucky enough that I can take the chance and jump at something new.”