Spotlight on Sharing: Making, Creating, and Building Community at Arapahoe Libraries

It takes a library of leaders to build a community of learners. During my recent field trip to Arapahoe Libraries as part of the Spotlight on Sharing initiative, I met librarians who were passionate about creating programs and opportunities that meet their patrons where they are and help them grow. It’s a district full of enthusiasm for their community.

My tour guide was Richard Lyda, Mobile Outreach Services Supervisor. Richard has been in the bookmobile business since he began at Arapahoe Libraries (ALD) almost 10 years ago. He’s proud to provide one of the most robust mobile outreach services in the state. Their vehicles include a van and a converted bus, cleverly retrofitted with bookshelves, a wheelchair lift, computer stations, and even a refrigerator.

ALD Bookmobile 2
The Library on Wheels includes many built-in amenities.

ALD’s outreach services bring the library to under-served populations in the district, primarily seniors, children, and new immigrant families. In addition, the outreach team provides scheduled home delivery and books by mail, invaluable for homebound patrons, and they even set up a self-checkout collection at the Infinity Park YMCA.

Richard told me that librarians who join the outreach team get hooked—himself included. It’s easy to see why, with so many innovative and rewarding ways to connect with patrons in their community.

Another group that’s excited about the services they provide is the tech team that runs the Makerspace and creation studios, led by Tech Experience Supervisor Nick Taylor. On the day we visited the Makerspace at Castlewood Library, Nick and and technology specialist George were testing 3D printers to make sure the equipment was ready for patrons to use.

ALD Staff
Richard, Nick, and George show off the Castlewood Makerspace.
ALD Dressmaker Forms
The Castlewood Makerspace includes dressmaker forms and other textile design equipment.

The Makerspace at Castlewood boasts a range of tools, including:

  • hand tools
  • Dremels
  • Soldering irons
  • 3D printers
  • 3D carver
  • laser cutter
  • sewing machines
  • sergers
  • dressmaker forms
  • spinning wheel

Many tools are available for patron self-service whenever the library is open. Some tools, including the incredibly popular laser cutter, require a tech assistant during staffed hours. But Nick says that they are exploring a certification that patrons can earn to use the high-powered tools without staff assistance. He wants to keep evolving the Makerspace to meet the needs of patrons.

For the artists, musicians, and filmmakers in the ALD community, The Studio at Southglenn (and another at Smoky Hill) boasts a sound-proof recording studio, musical instruments, a green screen with studio lights, media conversion equipment, and iMacs for sound and video editing.

Southglenn Green Screen
The green screen at The Studio at Southglenn is next to the soundproof recording studio.

Southglenn librarian Kevin Maas told me that while The Studio is available for anyone to use, it is so popular that it is often booked all day long. Several bands have even recorded albums there.

Our final stop on the field trip was to meet Cindy Phillips, Manager of Library Materials Services. Just as with the other librarians I met at ALD, Cindy was excited about finding new ways to serve her community. She is involved with their Linked Data project that publishes catalog records to the web, making it possible for patrons to find library materials through a browser search. (Learn more about Linked Data.)

Cindy is also exploring how to circulate nontraditional materials. Libraries in Colorado and across the country are circulating all kinds of things these days, from guitars and telescopes to bicycles and Roku streaming devices. Cindy’s team is working to find the best fit for their community.

My visit to Arapahoe Libraries was an energizing tour of innovative services and passionate librarians. In the spirit of Spotlight on Sharing, I wanted to share what I learned, and I encourage you to do the same. What service are you proud of that your library provides? What have you seen in another library that made you excited all over again about this profession? Share it by filling out this super short form. If you’re on Twitter, tweet @hitchlib or use the hashtag #spotlightonsharing.

Amy Hitchner
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