OCC Library reopens after 6-month project
Interior layout similar to original in 1904
After nearly six months, the Old Colorado City Branch Library reopened to the public Oct. 23 at 10 a.m. The historic facility at 2418 W. Pikes Peak Ave., originally
funded by wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, had been closed since April 28 for major interior construction as part of a multiyear preservation project.
“It feels great to have people in it, to see it open and being used,” said Branch Manager Julianne Rist. Although the work is not quite complete - some furniture and materials were still coming in this week and there's a punch list of construction fixes - “we always open the doors when we have books and computers,” she noted.
Initial operating hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Saturday, Oct. 27. The branch's regular hours will resume Monday, Oct. 29 (10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.)
Part of a multi-phase preservation effort, the $800,000 project restored the 103-year-old structure to some of its original interior architecture, including the semi- circular main desk in the center (beneath the skylight) and books in shelves along the walls. According to Rist, these design features had been eliminated during a remodel in 1980.
Another outcome of the project is a modern upgrade, including an expanded public computer lab. The wireless aspect of the lab was not quite ready this week. When it is, people will be able to plug into an Internet connection with a library laptop or their own, Rist said.
The number of books and other lending materials will be about the same as before, with probably more DVDs, music CDs and large-print books and a “little less” non-fiction, she said. But any desired library item can be brought over from other branches in the Pikes Peak Library District, she added.
One of the renovated library's most prominent new features is a small lift. Similar to an elevator, it allows handicapped people to access the downstairs community room, where meetings, presentations and children's programs will be held. The lift can only be used with staff assistance, Rist said.
Asked what she likes best about the renovation, she said it was “the whole atmosphere... The windows make it feel larger than it did.” Part of the reason is the new wood bookshelves along the walls. Unlike the old shelves, which partially covered a few of the windows (which were restored in an earlier phase of the restoration), the new ones come up right to the bottom parts of the window frames.
Although old-fashioned radiator units still deliver the heat, a new, more efficient furnace is supplying it. Air conditioning and better overall circulation were also part of the project, Rist said.
Library activities that had been relocated to other locations will be returning now to Old Colorado City. The children's programs, which have been provided at the West Center, will return starting Tuesday, Oct. 30, while the book club, which has been meeting at Pikes Peak National Bank, will be back at the library Thurs-day, Oct. 25, said Beth Cook, the children's specialist.
No date has been set yet for the computer classes to return. They've been held at the Cheyenne branch during the construction time.
Cook noted that she is slated to leave her library employment in mid-November. Interviews are being conducted for her replacement, she added.
One patron at the library Oct. 23 was Kathleen O'Maley and her children. “We've been waiting for it all summer,” said O'Maley, mentioning that she has been coming to the Old Colorado City branch since she herself was a child. She likes the new children's area. “It's nice, a lot more organized,” she said.
A grand opening for the Old Colorado City Library restoration is scheduled Saturday, Nov. 17 at 9:30 a.m. The free event will feature a performance by the Manitou Art Theater, with programs for all ages throughout the day.
Old Colorado City is one of only 17 Carnegie buildings still operating as libraries in the state.
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