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"I do not mean to suggest that our handsome, newly enlarged library is to be a headquarters of busy bookworms, old and young, routinely absorbing knowledge by the hour while birds sing outside and the Mets fight it out for last place in the National League. On the contrary, a good library is a joyful place where the imagination roams free, and life is actively enriched."

—John K. Hutchens

 

History of the Library

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1960’s

The Vail Public Library was established in 1963 as a library “demonstration project” - a

small collection was made available for the public to see if there was sufficient interest

for a permanent collection. A letter went out to each P.O. Box in Vail asking if there

was interest in a public library in Vail and only Mrs. Pete (Betty) Seibert responded.

From a Jan. 9, 1964 Colorado Press Clipping Service article, “extension librarians for

the Colorado State Library, Western Slope Branch Demonstration, is seeking persons

and organizations in Vail interested in bringing quality public library services to the

area.” This library “demonstration” project came at no charge to the town since it was

established under the Federal Library Services Act. Mrs. Seibert suggested the State

Library (Stan Oliner) contact Mrs. Caesar (Fran) Moretti, owner of Vali-hi Books ‘n

Things, a combination book store and gift shop located just down from the chair lift

in the new town of Vail. Mrs. Moretti invited Stan for a visit and her enthusiasm was

evident. When Stan arrived there were five shelves cleared off in the retail book store

for the new library collection. Stan offered a “demonstration” book collection from the

Grand Junction State Library collection and Fran offered the wall space in her shop.

That was in the Fall of 1963. The Vail Public Library “demonstration” was possibly

one of the few public libraries to ever open in a retail bookstore. Almost 600 books

were on the shelves in the Vali-hi Books ‘n Things shop and access to these books was

from Mon through Fri, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. There was absolutely no room to move around

in Fran’s store so children’s story hours were started on Saturday mornings in the bar

across from Pepi’s near the Old Bridge. To quote Stan Oliner, “they didn’t seem to

mind the smell of stale beer, and there were so few buildings one had to make do.”

The first year, 1964, was a success from the very start and at the end of this first year a

county-wide effort was initiated by approaching the County Commissioners for tax

funds.

The community was definitely interested in a library and began to develop a colorful

library history. The owners of the Eagle Valley Enterprise were of particular help

toward the whole county-wide effort. So was John Mackey, retired county school

superintendent, since he knew absolutely every “old timer” in Eagle County. Later

on, Fran Moretti found that she needed the wall space for her shop so volunteers

made arrangements with the Town of Vail for small quarters above the new fire house.

The seeds of the Vail Public Library were planted and they fell on fertile ground in

Vail. The library changed locations several times, from a retail store to a fire station

to the basement of the municipal building. The big move came in 1983 when a very

determined director, Charlyn Costello Canada, decided the time was right for a

permanent home for the library. A beautiful site was selected on Gore and Spraddle

Creek and an architect was hired who seemed to have a feel for the way a library

building should look in the Vail community.

1970’s

From “The Vail Public Library : present and future” by Flo Steinberg, 1979 –

The entrance looked more like the service entrance for maintenance. On the right side

of the main entrance of the municipal building, opposite the post office, were concrete

stairs leading down to a sub-level. At the bottom of the steps was a solid steel door and

the sign read “LIBRARY”. Behind that door, through a narrow hall and another door

was, surprisingly, a darn good library.

At first glance it looked like mass clutter. It was one room, 1600 sq ft of space,

that housed 15,000 hardback books, 3,500 paperbacks and 300 periodicals. Tall

bookshelves made the room look smaller. The reading space, sufficient for 12 adults

and 6 children, was so restrictive that there was only wiggle room between the chairs.

There was also a photocopy machine to duplicate material that could not be checked

out. There was some art work in the little space where a wall was visible. The usual

services were provided: checking books in and out, sending overdue notices, compiling

statistics, helping patrons find books and research material, story hours for children,

movies, and book discussion groups. Materials that Vail Public Library could not make

available could be acquired through interlibrary loan due to the library’s membership

in the Three Rivers Library System which served the northwest corner of Colorado.

Vail had a unique library, even compared to other resort towns, when it was less than

17 years old. The requests for non-fiction materials doubled those for fiction materials.

Folks living and visiting Vail were likely to be well-traveled college graduates who were

accustomed to library services provided by university and large metropolitan libraries.

The Vail Public Library had high standards to attain.

The need for a bigger and better library was discussed for many years. Town Council

allocated $5,000 for an architectural competition to design the new library. The

location, formerly known as Site 24, was chosen. That’s where the A-frame formerly

used by Colorado Mountain College used to sit. The biggest obstacle to the new

venture was, of course, money. It was a tribute to Charlyn Costello Canada and her

staff that the library served the community as well as it did during those days, 1972-82.

1980’s

In February, 1983, while the new library building was still under construction, library

staff were planning the first programming which was to take place beginning that

summer. In addition, a list was compiled of volunteers who could help transport the

23,000 volumes to the new library. Also, a Friends of the Library group was formed

and one of their first “charges” was to promote the library as a vital part of the Vail

experience.Vail Public Library was cited for its “earth-sheltered, energy conscious design”

back in 1983 and was named one of five libraries in the US to receive a prestigious

architect and library award. The awards, by the A.I.A. and the A.L.A., encouraged

excellence in the architectural design and planning of libraries. Vail Public was the

only public library and new building given the award. Judges cited Vail’s low-profile

library as “nestled comfortably within its site” and having a “strong sense of being

indigenous to the regional architecture” in the resort community. Also cited was the

architect’s ability to produce a “library that evokes the duality of rustic informality

and sophisticated library planning. The architect responded to the majestic setting

by the use of grass-lawn roofs, native wood and stone, creating an architecture of the

landscape. Materials, natural light and structure were integrated to enhance the sense

of clarity of use, intimacy and warmth of environment for users and staff.This earthsheltered,

energy-conscious design responded appropriately to the awesome setting

without making a self-conscious architectural statement.” The library had earlier earned

regional recognition when it was given a merit award by the 8-state Western Mountain

Regional American Institute of Architects.

Vail Public Library was cited for its “earth-sheltered, energy conscious design”

back in 1983 and was named one of five libraries in the US to receive a prestigious

architect and library award. The awards, by the A.I.A. and the A.L.A., encouraged

excellence in the architectural design and planning of libraries. Vail Public was the

only public library and new building given the award. Judges cited Vail’s low-profile

library as “nestled comfortably within its site” and having a “strong sense of being

indigenous to the regional architecture” in the resort community. Also cited was the

architect’s ability to produce a “library that evokes the duality of rustic informality

and sophisticated library planning. The architect responded to the majestic setting

by the use of grass-lawn roofs, native wood and stone, creating an architecture of the

landscape. Materials, natural light and structure were integrated to enhance the sense

of clarity of use, intimacy and warmth of environment for users and staff.This earthsheltered,

energy-conscious design responded appropriately to the awesome setting

without making a self-conscious architectural statement.” The library had earlier earned

regional recognition when it was given a merit award by the 8-state Western Mountain

Regional American Institute of Architects.

2012

After approximately nine months, and various stages of construction, the Vail Public

Library in 2013 now proudly occupies over 18,000 total square feet of usable space

on both levels of the building. The road through the remodel process was long as

well as challenging, but the end result is something the town can be truly proud of.

Library services remained in full swing throughout, including a three month period

of time in a temporary mini-library in the multipurpose room at Dobson Ice Arena.

The $2.1 million project, with guidance from the building’s original architect, Pamela

W. Hopkins from Snowdon and Hopkins Architects, resulted in a two-level facility

in which staff offices were relocated to the lower level which is connected to the

ground floor by an enclosed stairway and elevator. The renovation also brought new

ivory-color book stacks enclosed in custom white-oak end panels, interior lighting

upgrades, a new social technology center, a new multi-purpose service desk and a

remodeled community room complete with a variety of audiovisual and technology

improvements. The lower level, in addition to the staff offices, now boasts a classroom

and some much needed storage space. Funding for the renovation came from the Tax

Increment Financing bonds issued by the Vail Reinvestment Authority. While the

renovation was well documented to address the needs of this aging town facility, the

project became an even higher priority after a flash flood in July, 2011, caused more

than $175,000 in damage. The Friends of Vail Public Library also donated $52,000

towards the project, most of which was earmarked for new children’s room furnishings

and new furnishings and improvements in the community room.

Town Librarian, Lori A. Barnes, appreciates the patience of our valued patrons during

the ups ‘n downs of the renovation. “The Vail Public Library was committed to

maintaining services, including programming although somewhat reduced at times, in

order to meet the needs of patrons while our beautiful library underwent this much

needed renovation,” said Barnes. Built in 1983, the library serves more than 123,000

patrons annually. Finishing touches, such as new signage both inside and out, are

currently still underway.

The Grand Re-Opening Celebration, held on Friday evening, March 8th, featured

appetizers provided by Eric Berg, Vail Catering Concepts; champagne and wine

courtesy of Jonathan Staufer, Grappa Fine Wines & Spirits; music provided by Elisa

Bernardo, Music4U Inc.; and, “giveaways” courtesy of the Friends of Vail Public Library.