Situated at the intersection of the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers, Grand Junction, the most populous city on CO’s Western Slope, is surrounded by the breathtaking Colorado National Monument, the Grand Mesa and the appropriately named Book Cliffs. The downtown area has magnificent views of these features, lots of intriguing sculptures…
…and the Central Library of Mesa County Libraries.
It’s a large building with interesting geometrical shapes in its exoskeleton. Outside, there’s plenty of parking, a drive through book return, cement tables and seats, a few shade trees and a desert garden.
The lobby has a recycling container and a bench to sit on while you check out a title from the paperback spindle.
Inside, it’s a bustling place with an open floor plan. Display cases frame the entry and a double bench sits on a multicolored tile floor before an attractive new books area that includes Spanish titles and CDs.
A big screen TV promotes events (e.g. Tech Petting Zoo or Jazz in the 1930′s, The Glamorous 30′s and various movies relating to Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – the title for the One Book, One Mesa County series). Portable laptop users at little tables take advantage of the wifi, there’s an extensive magazine/newspaper section and a reference librarian stands beneath the quote “Dream It, Discover it, Do It.”
The circulating collection has Playaways, a checkout desk with friendly staff and plain language signs in nonfiction – True Crime, Cook Books etc. Sculptures and paintings abound and local artists can sell their work via an exhibit that changes monthly.
These cool creations, so reminiscent of the local geology and sunsets adorn one of the two stairways that access the basement level.
Downstairs has a spacious adult internet area with 26 computers plus 12 in the computer lab that can be used when there isn’t an EReader, Social Media, Beginning Word/Excel etc. class being offered. In addition, there are four computers in YA, eight in Children’s and eight in the literacy lab.
Obituaries (also in the online catalog), a magazine exchange close by a lounge area, and government documents are on this level as well.
The “learn a language” area and the literacy center are on this floor. Their literacy program is really big with 2.25 FTE’s, 364 students and 133 tutors. ESL accounts for 82% of the program and they offer help preparing for the citizenship test and TOEFL, but they also do basic computer skills training. Participants’ abilities range from the most basic English to high intermediate levels and there are even some college students. They work with local schools and school districts teaching classes for parents too. A large literacy study area lets tutors and students work together plus there are several more private rooms available.
Literacy staffers Eusebia Garza, Karen Kllanxhja and Wendy Kirby graciously posed for a picture and Karen, the Head of Literacy Services, told me all about the program. As the only full time staffer, she writes the grants – they’ve gotten ones from the Anschutz Family Foundation, the Colorado Department of Education and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The last two organizations helped with the computer lab in the literacy study room. The program started 26 years ago, and many of the tutors are retired teachers. They use Rosetta Stone and have a class in jail – as Karen said, “when literacy goes up recidivism goes down.”
The photos and stories behind them in the picture are part of their Amazing Success Stories traveling exhibit which has made the rounds among western CO towns. It’s all about their students’ accomplishments - successful businesses, great careers, higher education… - in fact, one of the students is now a tutor at the center.
Across the way the Friends of the Mesa County Libraries run a big book sale room - a very pleasant place for browsing, with soft music playing in the background and Volunteer Ruth happily answering questions.
The eight location system has so much. There’s “Words on Wheels” for the homebound and books by mail for rural patrons. You can book a meeting room or reserve a librarian for personalized help. The Rashleigh Regional History Room has local histories, city directories and gravestone inscriptions.
The low vision area has bright lights, magnifiers, large print books and an adaptive computer with oversize blue and yellow keys (the best contrasting colors for seeing).
A cushy chair with attached arm table is just outside a spacious program room, and if you have to make a phone call, this handy booth keeps it private.
The system’s website offers downloadable eBooks, eAudiobooks, eVideo and eMusic and a good selection of research databases. “Ask Us” lets you call, email, text or chat with a librarian or follow the library on Twitter, Facebook or via RSS feed. The Spanish version of the site lists books, music and films in Spanish and young adults have career and college resources, a blog and book reviews.
The teen area is vibrant and funky with bean bags and people chairs, bar stools at a high table, hassocks and trendy fixtures. There’s a YA video and audio collection as well as magazines, video games, Manga and a graphic novel display.
The YA’s have an advisory group and can attend programs like Teen Tech Tuesdays and Teen Gaming.
The Kid’s web page also has a blog plus age group specific sections and games to teach youngsters how to be green. Events include Bilingual Storytimes, a Junior Scientists series featuring Colorado Mesa University science professors, Family Story Night (with yoyo tricks!) and a program where fourth graders recite their own poetry. Not that they need an incentive to visit this colorful Children’s Area…
…where Cheryl is so welcoming. It’s got a wonderful sunken play area enclosed by frosted glass (perhaps making it less noisy?) with a two tiered cushioned bench and pillows all around.
There are numerous tapestries, and the chairs, shelving and walls are multihued – even the metal roof beams are painted a festive purple. It’s a huge area with tons of picture books, a New Books exhibit, a Spanish section and a foreign video and language collection.
Colorful beanbags near adult friendly seating attract all ages. There are loads of great wall and stand alone displays with props -Fun and Sports has a soccer ball and cones. Between the bookshelves, upholstered benches that hold books underneath are an efficient use of space. They’ve got a big screen TV for instructional purposes – when I visited they were teaching a class on the importance of reading to babies.
Stuffed bears are scattered around the shelves and the puppet theatre.
What a magical place to be a child.
And what a great library – they are truly making a difference to their community!