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21st Century Library

Step through the front doors of the new Library 21c and you know right away: This is not your mama’s library. Want to make movies, record your own music, invent stuff, compete in video game tournaments, or even just kick back and (gasp!) read a book? The new 112,000-square-foot, open-concept facility – a “21st Century Library,” as it’s touted by the Pikes Peak Library District – is a place for all that and more.

Located at 1175 Chapel Hills Drive, just past the Chapel Hills Mall, it will replace the tiny but busy Briargate Library, “but in a really big way,” says Travis Duncan, media relations specialist for the library district. It is packed with innovations not found elsewhere in the region.

There will be:

A business center with ample computers, resources and meeting rooms for local businesses, and help for those who are job-hunting. They’ve partnered with the Pikes Peak Workforce Center to assist with that. Ent Federal Credit Union has sponsored a conference center with an area ideal for receptions, including an outdoor balcony space overlooking the spectacular view of the Front Range.

a 400-seat auditorium with a stage, perfect for large group meetings (available to the public) and entertainments. “We’ve reached out to local community theater and other groups to let them know about it,” Duncan says. A separate entrance means this might be available even when the library is normally closed.

Glassed-in rooms called Maker Spaces, where both clean and messy projects can be pursued. They might serve artists, inventors and students working on creative projects that require a separate space. “If you can create it, you can do it here,” Duncan says.
a video gaming area where all ages can pursue their passion for video games. It’s a place to find someone to play a game with, or perhaps for group events. “We’re hoping to host some gaming tournaments,” Duncan adds.

A “black box” studio where the library and the public can create their own films – complete with a production crew and all the required equipment. Maybe you want to capture your grandparents telling family stories. Produce a film or play for a class project. Record your own CD of music. You can do it here.

The upper level will house the library district’s administrative offices. What this will do is free up space in Penrose and the East Library for other needs.

A terraced open space under skylights, where visitors can sit in beanbag chairs and read, or hear a poetry reading or perhaps a musician perform.

An e-lab, where you can check out electronic devices or bring your own to get cyber-help in learning how they work.

A seperate teen space, where teen-agers can find computers or special programs geared to their interests. Or just hang out with other teens in a safe environment.

A huge children’s area with ample books, more computers and lots of resources where parents can interact with their kids. Roving librarians will help them explore.

A café, contracted out to a caterer, which will serve simple food. You can spend all day at the library and have lunch, too. The previous owners of the building (MCI) left a full kitchen perfect for this purpose. “We might even offer cooking classes here,” Duncan says.

It’s next to the central two-story atrium, where comfy furniture will welcome readers or anyone who wants to just sit, have coffee and admire the view. Outside the glass wall is a garden area. “We were thinking it might be a great place for a community garden,” Duncan adds.

Whimsical carpet squares in an array of patterns and a palette of grays with complementary colors cover the floors. The squares create a pleasant, lively effect and are cost-friendly, cheaper than large expanses of carpet – and if there’s a tear or stain, just one square can be replaced.

The new facility didn’t incur any new debt. The money was raised from donations and existing tax revenues saved for just such a purpose. The building was purchased for $3.75 million – about one-third the original asking price. MCI left cubicle dividers, office chairs, desks, lounge furniture and more, most of it being repurposed.

Humphries Poli Architects, hired for this project, have renovated or designed 70 libraries – mostly in Colorado – prior to this. The lead architect on the project is Ryan Wallace, “a very tech-savvy young guy who knows exactly what we’re looking for,” says Paula Miller, executive director of the library district. “I think he has done a great job of capturing the ‘wow’ and the ‘this-library-is-something-different’ factor.”

Intended as a regional resource, Library 21c will serve as a model for the district, which also is looking at ways to eventually incorporate some of its facets – such as a Maker Space – into its other local libraries and branches, says Miller, who has been with the library district since 2006 and overseen the project since its inception.
“We’ll be looking at all that once this project is completed.”