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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

100 years of Westminster libraries building communities

100 years of Westminster libraries building communities

Found in the reference sections at College Hill and Irving Street libraries, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines community as “a unified body of individuals.” Westminster Public Libraries (WPL) celebrates 100 years this year of building skilled and knowledgeable communities and transforming lives.

The first library in the City of Westminster was set up in a part of Miss Sadie Anderson’s millinery (women’s hats) shop in February 1919 with a small supply of books loaned to patrons. The “library” in its early days moved to Westminster Elementary school at 72nd and Lowell Avenue, Carl Hawkinson’s grocery store near 73rd Avenue and Bradburn Boulevard, Westminster Community Church at 74th Avenue and Bradburn Boulevard before finding a home at the city’s City Hall near 73rd Avenue and Bradburn Boulevard.

The WPL then entered its formal phase of its development when Mrs. Mae Dowlin, Westminster’s first professional librarian was hired in 1961 and a modern library building was constructed as part of the Municipal complex on 76th Avenue. Children’s programming began, approximately 10,000 titles were added a year, and a vibrant library community took root.

The WPL has lived in several branches in its history (Kings Mill at 9018 Field Street, College Hill attached to Front Range Community College and Irving Street at 74th and Irving Street), but it has always had a sense of “place” wherever it is.

“The library as ‘place’ refers not only to a physical location but also meeting the needs of the community,” said Irving Street Library Services Coordinator Kira Kloser. “This gathering place has helped build and benefit our community in many ways over the past 100 years.”

Programming

One of the most popular WPL programs has been the citizenship preparation classes with more than 300 people participating in preparation for naturalization tests and interviews. Other popular programs include technology help, job hunt assistance, READog, Cat-urdays, Dungeons and Dragons club, summer reading program, 1,000 books before kindergarten, story time, Adventure Pass program and more. Through these programs, a community gains skills and confidence for a better future.

Events

Bringing the community together for special events creates excitement around the library “place.” From the Latino Festival to Irving Street’s mini-con to Geek Girl camp to Movies in the Park, and the upcoming Great Booksby and 100th anniversary celebration, the library is a place for the community to gather and party!

Discussion groups

Two adult book clubs meet at College Hill library with another discussing at Irving Street library. The Great Decisions Foreign Policy discussion group met weekly at College Hill to develop awareness of our wider world. Kids meet for Lego club and Book Buddies. There’s also a Spanish conversation club. These diverse, like-minded communities gather at a Westminster library to chat, build, and debate.

Community Outreach

Reaching underserved or regionally scattered audiences is part of WPL’s history. In 1980, the city revved up a bookmobile, cruising to outlying neighborhoods and schools to bring books. Funded by a federal grant, the bookmobile was the first in the nation to be online, connected via radio modem to the city’s main computer so patrons could access the library’s growing collection. WPL also visited the city’s recreation centers as a part of their “Librarians on the Loose” program to give out free books and teach visitors how to download e-books and audiobooks via the city’s online resources.

Worldwide communities

Connecting with a community is not just local or regional, but a global idea. WPL lends over 27,000 ebooks and 9,000 e-audiobooks in both English and Spanish. It connects patrons with databases such as Ancestry, Creativebug, Explora, ImageQuest and Sesame Street e-books. WPL makes it easy for you to find anything in the world you’re looking for today.

Internet access has been one of our fastest growing services,” said Kloser. “From the computers at the branches to the computers we installed at West View Recreation Center a couple years ago, they are a lifeline for our community without technological resources.”

Affiliates

The largest community associated with the WPL is the Friends of the Westminster Public Library. Since 1993, the organization has given almost $300,000 to the WPL for programming and activities. WPL has also partnered with the Space Science Institute on a space exhibit and Westminster Public Schools on other special exhibits. Most significant has been the partnership WPL and the city has with the Front Range Community College. College Hill library shares space and materials with the college with the upper floor more academic focused and the main floor more traditional in its programming and library materials.

Employees

“Our employees are the heart of our organization,” said Library Services Manager J.R. Clanton. “We hire people who have compassion and the desire to help people.”

WPL employees feel a passion for their jobs and their co-workers. They want to help library patrons and help their fellow employees learn and grow. They have a strong connection to both their public community and employee community. You can feel the strong sense of camaraderie at both Irving Street and College Hill libraries.

“We’re here to change lives, whether through citizenship classes, job help, or a comfortable place to do homework,” said Kloser.

 

Looking to the future and the next 100 years, WPL seeks to become the community resource center. With a high rating from citizens and demonstrated excellence in service, WPL seeks to and has the power to transform lives. Whether you are visiting the building to pick up holds or stay for a group class, browsing online resources or using the new and improved WPL In Touch mobile app, you are a part of the community created by the Westminster Public Libraries.

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