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Basalt builds a better spot for books

Scott Condonscondon@aspentimes.com Basalt, CO Colorado
Scott Condon/The Aspen TimesThe north end of the library will feature a 27-foot-high wall of glass boasting views of the Roaring Fork River and Basalt Mountain.
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BASALT, Colorado Basalt will lose its only bookstore this year, but the town will soon gain a 21,000-square-foot, $11 million public library.Town Center Booksellers has evolved into a type of community gathering place that many people feel contributes mightily to Basalts small-town charm. The owners announced this week that they will close the bookstore on March 28, largely because of economics.The new facility wont be able to replace the charm, feel and overall excellence of the independent bookstore, said Barbara Milnor, interim director of the Basalt library. Nevertheless, midvalley resident are in for a treat, she said.We are going to have a world-class library in little old Basalt, Milnor said.The new facility, under construction next to the Basalt post office, will likely open in January 2010, according to Bud Eylar, president of the Basalt Regional Library Districts board of directors.Library officials practically drool when they describe the services they will be able to offer in their new home. The childrens section will expand from a couple of hundred square feet shoehorned in to the old facility to a vastly larger space in the new library. Teens also will have a dedicated area. Combined, the youth area will be 4,200 square feet.The collections area will be able to handle 60,000 volumes everything from books, books on CD and music discs. A browsing section right inside the main public entrance on the south side of the building will feature new books. The existing library is so cramped that the 34,000 volumes must be constantly weeded out. In order to purchase new material we have to get rid of something else, Milnor said.The new facility will have 16 sit-down computer stations, where people can go on the Internet along with another 11 laptops they can check out for use elsewhere in the building.Brad Zeigel of A4 Architects, which designed the new library, said the team went for an open design, patterned in large part after libraries they toured in the Seattle area.You make it more like a bookstore, Zeigel said. Staff isnt hiding behind a big piece of furniture. Theyre flowing through the books.A main conference room will accommodate up to 80 people for library events like book club discussions and author presentations. The public also can reserve it for everything from Boy Scout meetings to town government gatherings. The meeting room, with a kitchenette and bathrooms, is designed so it can be used independently even when the library itself is closed.Perhaps the greatest attribute of the new library will be a place to hang out. The existing library is so cramped that a quiet place is difficult to find. Desks and chairs will be sprinkled throughout the interior of the new facility, but the biggest draw will be an area in the northern end of the building. A wall of windows soars 27 feet high, offering views of the nearby Roaring Fork River and the stark cliff face of Basalt Mountain in the distance.Couches and comfortable chairs will be clustered to take advantage of those views, and a gas fireplace will take the chill off cold winter days.B&H General Contractors of Glenwood Springs will turn the completed building over to the library district in December, according to project superintendent Brad Dykema. The staff will have the enjoyable task of moving from the cramped quarters to new spacious digs.Its like a large family in a small house watching them build a bigger, new house next door, Milnor said.Among its other attributes, the new facility will boast a raised floor that allows extreme flexibility with ductwork and wiring, and loads of windows on the east and west to allow natural lighting. The exterior is mostly covered in a Brazilian hardwood, which Zeigel said is fast growing and sustainable rather than harvested from the rain forest. The exterior of the community room is copper with a green patina accented with untreated copper.The library district scored a $200,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for a solar-electric system, Eylar said. Additional funds from local governments will allow the library to install a system that could handle roughly 50 percent of its consumption of electricity. The library district will seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification for the project.We havent missed many opportunities to make this as efficient as it can be, Eylar said.


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