Denver’s library leaders aren’t planning any permanent new library facilities at the moment. Instead, they intend to improve what the city already has.
The system stands to get about $61 million if voters approve the city-wide debt spending plan proposed by Mayor Michael Hancock. Most of that money would go toward an extensive rebuilding of the Central Library branch, where staff are struggling to maintain an aging facility and accommodate waves of new visitors.
Library leaders also plan to renovate ten regional branches, a years-long process that may result in some branches being closed for construction work.
“It’s complicated but it’s also fun to think about the future and what we can do,” said Chris Henning, library spokesman.
The central branch is the biggest part of the plan.
At the central library, planners hope to use the $38 million to put the security office, the children’s library and an events center on the first floor. The plan also includes improvements to technology, restrooms and elevators, as well as the creation of a courtyard area outside.
Library leaders also have some more items on their wish list for the central branch.
If they can convince the Denver City Council to pitch in an extra $12 million, they want to create an enclosed outdoor area for kids, a high-tech space for teenagers and improvements to the plaza between the library and the Denver Art Museum.
The expanded project also would lower the book shelves on several floors, allowing security staff to see better. Council members Chris Herndon and Rafael Espinoza have said they would like to get the extra money for the expanded project. (Update: Council members ultimately did not introduce an amendment to add money to the library project.)
The branches would get some love, too.
Unlike in 2007, the date of the last major bond package, there are no plans for new libraries. That’s mostly because Denver hasn’t seen a lot of brand-new development in “greenfield” areas in the last few years –– instead, people are packing into developed areas that already have services.
The mayor’s proposal includes money for work on the ten library branches that have gone the longest without renovations. Most haven’t seen major work in about 20 years. The library’s other branches all received renovations in the 2007 Better Denver bond package.
The branches set for renovations range from the Smiley and Byers branches, built in 1918, to the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library of 2003.
“We want to make sure that any deferred maintenance gets taken care of — HVAC, elevators,” Henning said. “Over and above that, it can mean different things at different branches: Putting an addition, adding an idea lab, reconfiguring a computer access area so that it’s more expanded for a neighborhood that might need that.”
Here’s what’s included in the mayor’s plan, which is still subject to change:
Athmar Park: $2.4 million (includes building addition with new space)
Blair-Caldwell: $2.9 million
Byers: $1.5 million
Eugene Field: $2.1 million
Pauline Robinson: $1.5 million
Ross-Barnum: $2.3 million
Ross-Broadway: $2.4 million (includes addition)
Ross-University Hills: $3.2 million
Schlessman: $3.5 million (includes addition)
Smiley: $1.5 million
The full Denver City Council will discuss the bonds package and accept public comment at a 5:30 p.m. meeting on Monday, Aug. 7. The next week, the council is expected to finalize the bonds list.
The package then goes to Denver voters in November. If it passes, then the projects get their money. However, it would take years to get through the library’s renovation plan.
The library likely would take on just one or two renovations at a time, as the branches likely would have to close during construction. They hope to keep the central branch open through construction.