Libraries try to match growth
EAGLE COUNTY ” It’s almost a good problem to have.
The Eagle Valley Library District is busy beyond the expectations of those who run it. That, combined with a rapidly growing valley, may lead the district’s board to ask voters for a tax increase this fall to pay for what may become almost an all-at-once expansion program.
The libraries in Avon, Eagle and Gypsum are already busy, with all three towns poised to grow even more over the next few years.
The growth is likely to hit hardest in Avon, which may double its population in a decade or less. That facility, though, may end up third in line for an addition.
District officials are looking hardest at an addition to the library in Eagle, where the population has grown most over the last few years. Gypsum has grown nearly as fast, but its smallish library in the town hall doesn’t get as much use as the one in Eagle.
Gypsum may end up at the top of the district’s list, though, because the town government may need to use the library’s space to add room for its growing staff. That means an all-new building may be needed.
All that work will require more money from voters. Numbers are still being crunched, but the price tag for all that work may be in the neighborhood of $15 million.
With the Eagle County School District likely to ask voters for a tax hike that could top $150 million, a couple of library board members are wary of asking county residents for still more money.
“We’re a little nervous about it,” board member Lisa Tuthill said. But, she added, people seem willing to support the local libraries, at least if use of them is any indication.
“People are using them beyond our expectations,” Tuthill said. “Every community we operate in is in need of more.”
On a recent summer afternoon in Avon, though, a few library users said they feel like their money is being well-spent now, and would listen to a request for more.
“The collection is very good for a small-town library,” Avon resident Stephen Hill said. “I like the Internet access, it seems like the computers are always busy. I think they’re spending the money well.”
The children’s section at the Avon library was bustling on that same afternoon. There, a group of local moms was picking out books for their kids. They agreed they’re getting their money’s worth at the library.
“The staff is wonderful here,” said Carrie Benway. A former volunteer for the Literacy Project, Benway said the tutoring rooms at Avon are used a lot, and that more would be welcome.
The board will probably decide whether or not to ask voters for money at its July meeting, since the tax question would have to be sent to county election officials in the first half of August. For board president Mike Brown, the decision to ask voters for more money is always difficult.
“In any year, we could be one of a number of questions on the ballot,” Brown said. “But we didn’t let that guide our thinking. The basis of our thinking is what’s best for our patrons.
“We felt if we didn’t address growth now, it could get away from us quickly,” Brown said. “We want to make sure we’re ahead of it.”
The hard part, Brown said, is that the growth has hit all three of the district’s libraries at once.
“I wish they could grow in an orderly fashion,” Brown said. “But there’s a possibility we’ll have to deal with all three libraries within one or two years of each other.”
In Avon, that means the building may expand to the west, or, perhaps, into space now used by the Eagle River Fire Protection District, said district director Charlyn Canada. That space, perhaps as much as 8,000 square feet, would be used for more community meeting and tutoring space.
Plans for Eagle include a new wing, to be built to the south of the existing building at the corner of Sixth and Capitol streets. That new wing would be dedicated to children’s programs, and, perhaps, a place to store and catalog the valley’s historic documents and other artifacts.
If a new building is needed in Gypsum, it could end up at about 14,000 square feet. That would more than double the current space, and give the town a library about the size of the current building in Eagle. Canada said town officials have offered land for the new building.
With the prospect of a crowded fall ballot, library officials hope the good will they’ve built up in the dozen or so years since the district was created will serve them well in November.
“I think people see their money really comes back to them,” Tuthill said. “We’ve had a wonderful history of community support.”
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado