Hayden Public Library Director Ana Lash stands next to the freebie rack. The West Routt Library District has a population of about 2,500 and circulates 3,200 materials monthly.

Photo by Nicole Inglis

Hayden Public Library Director Ana Lash stands next to the freebie rack. The West Routt Library District has a population of about 2,500 and circulates 3,200 materials monthly.

Changes on the horizon for small community libraries in Routt County

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Turning the page to the digital age

When Bud Werner Memorial Library proposed a 21,000-square-foot, $12.5 million building expansion, some doubted the library's success in light of the advent of digital media. Several years later, library officials say, the proof is in the numbers.

— No one has a library card at the Hayden Public Library.

That’s because Director Ana Lash checks out materials by last name, allowing her to get to know the Hayden community person by person, book by book.

“I love it when I get a book in someone’s hand, and they get so excited,” she said.

The West Routt and South Routt library districts enjoy a more traditional style of library, but changes are on the horizon for these small communities, as well.

In South Routt, librarian Debbie Curtis said circulation is about half books and half DVDs from the library’s ever-growing multimedia collection, and the public Internet usage has been a great success.

“Usually, these seven computers are full,” said Curtis, gesturing at a line of PCs. “People like having that.”

Hayden also has five public computers and a growing shelf of DVDs, but its collection of VHS tapes is larger.

“I have a library board that’s incredibly focused on a basic, old-fashioned library style,” Lash said. “The electronic stuff is great, but it’s expensive.”

She said circulation is about 3,200 materials per month with DVDs accounting for about 400 of those.

Both library districts hold regular story-times for children and host book clubs for adults. Lash said she recently launched a crocheting and knitting club in the cozy, living room section of the downtown Hayden building.

Both librarians said many patrons are reading books digitally. Curtis and Lash have e-readers themselves and often are asked by patrons for tech support and advice on using the devices.

“Christmas was insane,” Lash said. “I think we’re going to do a class on e-readers.”

Both library districts have a much smaller population than the East Routt Library District, so less funding comes in through property taxes.

South Routt’s 2013 budget is $143,000 for the Oak Creek and Yampa public libraries, and Hayden’s is $178,000.

With fewer resources and mostly part-time librarians, these smaller libraries serve their towns with a unique community experience.

The Oak Creek Public Library sits on the ground floor of the community center where seniors have lunch, so it’s easy access for the elderly to peruse books and periodicals or get on the Internet.

In Hayden, a freebie cart serves as a community book swap, where people can grab a free book and leave an old one. Lash even has put out T-shirts and old telephones for people to take home — with no due dates.

“I think we have a good future,” Curtis said about small community libraries.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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