Copyright © 2003 Henrietta W. Hay
The Library Awaits Another Day
November 14, 2003
It was a heartbreaker, so close and yet so far, when Mesa County by a
slim majority said "no" to a new central library. For the staff and
volunteers who worked so tirelessly it was a sad evening. The vote
drops us down to a second class community.
Thirteen hundred people visit the library every day. They may not
agree that our remodeled grocery store is big enough, as they
sometimes have to use their elbows to get through the crowd (well, no,
library patrons are too polite for that). Some services may have to be
eliminated and some new services will have to wait. There will not be
room for as many books as were planned unless they put shelves in the
Maybe the staff could try the method of the Persian Vizier who traveled
with 400 camels who carried his 117,000 volume library. But that really
isn't practical either. Camels don't thrive in western Colorado.
But the library lives. Since the collection of clay tablets in Babylon
in the 21st century B. C. there have been libraries. Armies have burned
them down in ancient times, floods have damaged them, tornadoes have
hurled the books around, but the library always comes back. It is the
cultural center of a community.
The citizens of Grand Junction have cared enough about cultural
activities to maintain a growing library for over 100 years. But now,
when the world has become complex beyond understanding, when technology
has given us new tools for gaining information -- now Grand Junction
says "No, you don't need any more room."
The library is, of course, more than a building. It is the books and
the other information and entertainment resources. It is the librarians
who work in it and love it and serve the public so graciously, and the
people who use it. But it needs walls and a roof.
A library is so many things. It holds the records of the past and it
keeps us informed about problems of the present. It helps children to
become readers. It is equipped to answer your questions on just about
any subject. Its books give information and entertainment, depending on
one's desire. It buys a wide variety of newspapers and magazines for
its patrons. It presents programs of special interest to readers.
65,000 of the 119,000 citizens of Mesa county have library cards. Less
than half of the citizens have internet access in their homes and many
of them use the library computers for their e-mail.
And it is something more. Jamie LaRue, a library friend on the eastern
slope, wrote this in one of his recent columns. "Or it might be that
people come simply to meet each other. I'm convinced that the real story
of public libraries over the past 10 years is that communities are
rediscovering us as the long lost "commons," the public gathering place
that doesn't charge a toll at the gate. You see this change in the
explosive growth of public meetings, the quest for virtual offices, or
even the casual conversations struck up over the new magazines."
Our more progressive city to the south, Montrose, built a new library
several years ago. If you want a quiet place to read or to hold a
small, informal study group, you may want to drive down there and take
advantage of their comfortably designed building.
But whatever happens, the Mesa County Public Library will continue to
serve the citizens of Mesa County. The fine staff is disappointed, but
resolved to give the best possible service in a limited space. The
many volunteers who worked so hard on the election are disappointed, but
resolved to take their message to the county voters at some future
date. At 89 years young, I still look forward one day to walking into a
new library, and not a remodeled grocery store.
A great community deserves a great library.