Reposted with permission from the Rawlins Daily Times
By Ellen Fike, Special to the Times
It was a little surprising when the staff of the Carbon County Library System branch in Rawlins found out that a big move was in their future.
After nearly 40 years of being housed on the second floor of the Carbon Building, the library will at some point move down to the ground floor of the administrative building. While it will technically be physically smaller, CCLS executive director Jacob Mickelsen believes this might be the best way to move the library forward.
“I was apprehensive about losing square footage, but since the design plans have come out, we’re going to make much better use out of our space downstairs,” he said. “We’re going to add some significant features, like a maker-space or as I call it, a ‘creation station.’ Casper has one like it that they installed about a year ago and it’s really impressive.”
The move is in conjunction with the sixth penny tax, which is intended to generate funds for projects all over the county. Around $27.5 million is designated to remodel the Carbon Building and the courthouse. The library’s funds will come out of the allotment.
With the move, patrons will no longer have to use either the steep staircase or infamously slow elevator inside the building to access the library. They will enter through an outdoor plaza, instead.
There will be designated spaces for children, teens and adults, as well as a Wyoming history room and a computer lab.
Mickelsen believes that by making the library more physically accessible, the staff will see an increase in foot traffic. Being on the ground floor of an administrative building will help, since anyone stopping into treasurer’s office can swing by the library to pick up a book or surf the internet. Currently, around 100 people visit the Rawlins branch per day.
When the move was announced, the library staff held a public survey to see what people would like to see or leave behind with the move. One concern popped up again and again.
“People seem to be really worried that we’re going to get rid of all the books,” Mickelsen said. “That is not ever going to happen. Now, we might change things up and get rid of things that aren’t of any use anymore. For example, we have car manuals taking up quite a bit shelf space. They’re really taking up room when they’re not that useful anymore. This is an instance when the internet is a preferred source.”
He also pointed out how the sale of print books has increased every year for nearly a decade, so no one should be concerned that books are considered a relic of a time gone by.
Mickelsen also noted that some expressed concern that by moving the library down to the ground floor, it was a way of showing the staff and the community that the library wasn’t a concern and being put on the back-burner. However, he feels that by getting a new, remodeled library, the county is showing just how important the CCLS is to the community.
He described how a library is essentially the last place in a community where a person can spend time and not be expected to spend money. People can come in, enjoy the heating (or air conditioning) and flip through books, use the internet, or just sit in a chair and relax for a little while.
But for those averse to change, the move isn’t going to happen quite yet.
“In a project that has around 15 phases, we’re in phase two or three,” Mickelsen said. “We’ve got plans drawn up and we’re working with architects, but I’m not sure if we’re quite in the contractor stage yet.”
Right now, he feels positive about the future of the library system, which includes seven other locations besides Rawlins. These libraries include Hanna, Encampment, and Saratoga. It’s been a mission of the Carbon County commissioners to keep all eight up and running, and Mickelsen said he and his staff are dedicated to that. He even noted that if they receive any budget increases in the future, that money will go toward paying the staff and keeping the libraries open longer.
“We can have all the cool stuff in the world, but it won’t matter if the library isn’t open,” he said.