Historical preservation with modern touches envisioned for OCC library’s interior redesign

       A return to the original, round circulation desk in the middle of the room may be part of the Old Colorado City Library's new look when the dust clears from its ongoing preservation project over the next couple of years.
       The planned remodeling also calls for an elevator, which would allow handicapped access to a larger meeting room in the basement.
       These proposals, as well as nearly all the plans presented by contracted architect Gifford Spurck Associates, met with general favor at two public meetings Feb. 15 inside the venerable library that was donated to the town of Colorado City by Andrew Carnegie in 1904.
       Close to 40 people cumulatively attended the two sessions, at which representatives of the architectural firm displayed drawings and asked for feedback.
       The work would be Phase 2 of the preservation project, which could start this year. Phase 1 (replacing/restoring outside doors, windows and stairs) is to be completed this spring and summer. Funding for both phases, as well as a landscaping-related Phase 3, is coming from a combination of private donations and grants. A price estimate of $1.7 million has been given.
       Overall, the Phase 2 plans call for a complete refurbishing of the interior, with an eye for historical correctness where it's reasonable. For instance, the original tables and chairs will be retained and the wood floors and trim will be restored, but the heating, cooling and wiring will all be modernized.
       Kris Gifford of Gifford Spurck said that research had shown the library in its early days had the circulation desk in the middle of the room. This layout makes sense in a modern context, he said, allowing librarians better visibility to the 3,000-square-foot main floor.
       Currently, part of the main floor is an open area, where meetings and presentations are often held. A meeting room for about 25 people is in the basement, but is too small for many gatherings and can't be used when participants have access issues. Some of the added space on the main floor would result from not needing that open area. Instead, there will be room for more books, an expanded computer lab, wireless capabilities for laptop Internet access and a self-checkout area, the plans show.
       The library's book collection would also be increased somewhat, partly from putting bookshelves along the walls and under the window sills in places, Gifford said.
       Other enhancements would include a restoration of the original high ceilings, reopening of two basement windows that have been walled over, improvements to the upstairs and downstairs restrooms, and larger employee facilities (including the break room and librarian's office).
       No changes are foreseen in the main entrance lobby or the historic, but somewhat narrow stairs to the basement. When a meeting attendee asked if something could be done about those stairs, Gifford grinned back, “We'll have a real great elevator.”
       At the morning meeting, Dave Rasmussen, a long-time Old Colorado City Library employee who is about to transfer to the Fountain branch, said he liked the plan, but felt it needed to reflect what he termed the three user types: people who get on the computers, people who just want to get their books and go and those who see the library as an educational place where they want to “sit and stay.”
       Questions from patrons included the proposed computer lab location next to the children's area (that there might be distractions), whether the new basement meeting room could double as an all-purpose room when not being used and how security would be handled.
       Gifford said the children's area location was not finalized, but the argument for the proximity is that children would be near their parents when they are using the computers. Rist said the problem with leaving the meeting room open all the time was that an employee would have to remain on that level to monitor it. As for security, she said that is still being looked at, in part because new technology is being developed that would prevent DVD thefts (the main security issue).
       An employee brought up the question of cold air coming into the library when the side door is open (it has a 30-second time frame for handicapped access). This could probably affect workers at the new circulation desk, it was noted. In response, Gifford said that perhaps a warm “air curtain” could be installed to minimize that problem. Then he half-joked that cold air coming in was “part of the charm of an old library.”
       To this, Flo Hagiwara, president of the Friends of Old Colorado City Library, responded, “We had pot-bellied stoves back then, too, but we don't want to go back to that.”

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