Our View: Library delivers on public promise
April 14, 2013
Bud Werner Memorial Library
Library is a true community meeting place.
In 2005, the East Routt Library District asked voters for what amounted to $29 million throughout 20 years to expand the Bud Werner Memorial Library and hire additional personnel to staff the new facility.
Our editorial board at the time told voters to say "no." We thought the library was too expensive. We thought the community had higher priorities. We were reluctant to invest millions in bricks and mortar when what we thought of as the library's primary missions — books and research — had an increasingly digital future.
More than seven years later, it's easy to see how wrong we were. Thankfully, the voters in the library district didn't listen to us. They overwhelmingly approved funding for the new library and additional staff.
The East Routt Library District made the case that if they built it, they would come. They couldn't have been more accurate.
The new, 21,000-square-foot library opened in 2008 and has become one of the premier assets in the city. In her comprehensive look at the library's growth in the April 7 Steamboat Pilot & Today, reporter Nicole Inglis noted that the average resident of the library district now visits the library 21.3 times per year. That is about four times the national average.
There were 100,000 more visitors to the library in 2012 than there were in 2007, the last year before the new library opened. That's an increase of 274 visitors per day.
The total number of print books checked out in 2012 is up 35 percent compared with 2007. Total checkouts, which now include e-books, are up 61 percent compared with 2007. That's remarkable growth in any era, but it's even more remarkable when you consider it occurred at a time when rapid advancements in mobile phone and tablet technology put a lifetime's worth of content within arm's reach.
It is clear that the library's success is about more than the collection of books, magazines, audiotapes, videos and other content it contains. What really makes it worth the millions borrowed to build it is the library staff's ability to transform it into a true community meeting place. The library now hosts an average of 45 public events per month. It has a children's area, work space, meeting rooms, Wi-Fi access and coffee shop. It is not your grandmother's library — library staff is there to help, not shush, you. Each visit is a community experience.
So let's take a moment to thank the board members of the library district and Chris Painter and her staff. They have created something all too rare in this day and age: a public facility that has lived up to all of its public promise.
In 2005, we were convinced that the need for libraries would have waned by 2013, done in by digital. We're fortunate the folks at the library, not to mention the district's voters, could see what we couldn't.