One floor left, grand opening week kicks off later this month
Four floors, a ballroom, an outdoor amphitheater and 12.5 million dollars later, the Rawlings library renovations will officially be complete by the end of March.
Pueblo City-County Library District will celebrate the completion of the revamping with a grand opening week filled with events. The week starts with self-guided tours on March 20, an open house from 3-8 p.m. on the 21st, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. on the 22nd, a cornerstone and time capsule ceremony at 1 p.m. on the 23rd and a Pecha Kucha, a 20-slide presentation with 20 seconds of commentary per slide, from each department at 6:30 p.m. on 24th.
Renovations to the largest library in Pueblo started in August 2021. The library has stayed open throughout the entire 18-month-and-going timeline, navigating the obstacles of providing services around construction.
Sherri Baca, the newly-appointed executive director, said that this renovation is meant to last the public 20 years.
“The Rawlings Library is a key amenity in Pueblo, and I am pleased that after nearly two decades of heavy public use, we are revitalizing this library, so it remains a key community asset for many years to come,” said retired executive director, Jon Walker, when PCCLD announced the start of renovations.
Nick Potter, the director of community relations and development for PCCLD, has been a part of the renovation project from its beginning when they hired the building development firms, Humphries Poli Architects and HBM Architects, in 2018, to arranging the ribbon-cutting ceremony, in which Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has been invited to attend.
Potter was the primary fundraiser for the Your Future Library capital campaign, which meant he oversaw raising $2.5 million in private funding. A $500,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities makes up a fifth of those funds. But, as it had a matching-funds stipulation, Potter and the library had to raise at least $1.5 million in addition to receive that one grant. From there, Potter worked on naming rights for the donors, which means that donors could choose the name of rooms or areas in the library. For example, one of the study rooms is called the NAACP Study Room located in the teen section that corresponds with a collection on display near the space.
Focus groups for these renovations were chosen after hiring the architects, prompted by community feedback about the PCCLD facilities in 2019. Outreach was done through several methods: website announcements, social media campaigns, surveys, public forums and outreach to active community members who have participated in other library groups.
“It wasn’t something that was just done in a vacuum, and that’s not how we do anything here,” Potter said. “We really go out to the community, we’re very open, we’re very transparent, we get that voice and then we come back and try to make plans before we present those plans back out to the community for feedback and then we start the project normally is kind of how we how we operate.”
For Potter, open communication is key for the library to serve its patrons, and he is confident in the effort to ensure the community has been heard throughout this process. The key part, to him, is that the library district approaches these changes with transparency.
“It creates this great collaboration with us in the community,” he said.
Completed so far
Frequent patrons of the library would be familiar with the current changes made to the Rawlings library, as the renovation timeline focused on working from the ground up. The first to change was the outside of the building. A loop was added for easier drop-off at the front entrance. An ampitheater now sits where a road sat, that served as a throughway bisecting the library campus. The water feature at the front entrance has been empty and will continue to be until construction is fully over to prevent debris from damaging the mechanism.
Work then started on the main floor. Potter said this was the hardest level to work on, as it affected the public the most. During the construction, in effort to mitigate interruptions to the services the library provides, there was a game of “musical chairs,” as he describes it. Whole sections of the library were displaced to continue public access and still accommodate for a safe user experience away from the construction. Temporary changes were made; such as special collections were moved to the old makerspace, strange areas were housing books that did not before, etc.
The main floor was re-opened in spring of last year, but to prevent complete closure, Potter explained that they created “tunnels” or access ways to allow passage through the incomplete parts of the floor.
“The real trick that we’ve had with this is making sure that for those that have mobility issues that the construction was it,” Potter said. “So, what we’ve had is a phone number, for those that have mobility issues, to call and we bring them up through a staff entrance and then link to the collection, so that they can have access to the facility.”
This floor now includes most notably the revamped InfoZone and PJ’s; the New Orleans’ themed coffee shop was originally located in Pueblo West. The coffee shop is available, but not exclusively, for catering throughout the meeting spaces in the building and other designated spaces where you can eat.
The second floor houses the children, teen and adult fiction sections.
“All the traditional library services have been brought up to this floor,” Potter said.
He explained that this allows for families to be able to use the library independently and their guardians to still be able to confidently provide supervision due to the open layout.
The third floor houses the Hispanic resource center, which includes English as a second language resources, Spanish-language materials and a familiar painting depicting the story of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The artwork is now safely hidden from the sun and is no longer at risk for fading. It was also revamped to add a more secure, more interactive special collections space. It includes a humidity-controlled space that is larger than the previous collections space, and a closed viewing room. The library now has a digitization lab to help transfer analogue materials like family VHS tapes to digital files.
The fourth floor is all that is left to be finished before the grand opening. The Ryals Grand Event Space is wrapping up construction. This space is a ballroom with a cocktail area and a warming kitchen. Baca said that this space will have a fee to rent, but “will be affordable.”
Transformed from the oft-overlooked InfoZone museum, the fourth floor has now become a dedicated event space.
Potter worked with CSU Pueblo’s former mass communications director Jennifer Mullen to update the InfoZone museum, which had been strictly about the history of journalism. In the renovation, , PCCLD took the opportunity to update the information being displayed. The new focus: media literacy and the history of communication. The museum explains the importance of understanding search engine optimization and vetting sources when researching or finding new information in the digital age. Not only does the museum discuss modern communication, it also offers interactive displays on early communication such as local art.
The linotype machine that had long been displayed was removed by crane from the fourth floor, through a window, and placed next to the Friends of the Library conference room. According to Potter, the library wants to bring more items out of the special collections vault and into the eye of the public. In addition to the typesetting machine, they are now displaying a pen used by 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
This area includes family study rooms with adult and children furniture to create a more blended space. This, for example, allows parents who need access to laptops or study to stay near their children and for the children to be occupied in a space meant for them.
According to Baca, the space implements a variety of skills children need to learn during development within the play space.
A sensory or quiet room is in the space for children and/or parents to utilize to calm down or be in a space with less stimulation.
“They put a sink in there because a lot of the kids that are having issues… find running water really helps them,” Potter said.
The library no longer has traditional desktop computer stations. PCCLD added several laptop vending machines that allow patrons to check out a laptop for two hours and use it throughout the library. There are 72 laptops available throughout the Rawlings library. There are several wireless access points throughout the building, which has increased the internet speed.
Any of the rooms can be booked online and utilize a code to check in that will be sent to the patron. The code changes for each booking.
Rebranding PCCLD & updating other libraries
According to Baca, PCCLD intends to work on renovating the rest of the libraries over the next decade. It is to be decided which will be renovated first, but Barkman and Lucero libraries are on the roster to be renovated. The two buildings will have an additional third of the current floor plan added to the square footage post-renovation. Focus groups have already started for what these projects entail. Then afterward, Pueblo West would be up for consideration.
In the meantime, some major changes are already in the works, and not just for the Rawlings library. PCCLD has already implemented its updated logo and is launching the updated website early this month.
For more information about what is to come for Pueblo’s libraries, check out the PCCLD Libraries Facility Master Vision plan, which is located at pueblolibrary.org/about/reportsandplans. If you are interested in participating in a focus group, contact Nick Potter by phone at (719) 562-5605 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leave a Reply