Fruita now boasts Mesa County’s ‘flagship’ library

When the Mesa County Public Library District tried and failed twice back in the mid-2000s to push through tax increases to build a new central library, some opponents charged that library administrators needed to focus on the outlying branches.

Two years ago, the library responded by moving the Orchard Mesa branch from the middle school to a larger space in a new strip mall that allowed the branch to double the number of books it carries.

The latest evidence that the library received the message lies in the sparkling new $1.9 million Fruita branch, which opens next week — perhaps as soon as Monday — inside the Fruita Community Center at 324 N. Coulson St. An open house is scheduled for Feb. 2 from 4 to 8 p.m.

Library Director Eve Tallman said the branch is the first building constructed specifically for a library in the Grand Valley in 110 years. The central library formerly was a Safeway grocery store, and the other branches are located in non-library spaces.

“This is the flagship for us now,” Tallman said. “It’s a huge project and an example of what libraries should be like all over the county.”

The 7,000-square-foot building is a little more than five times the size of the 1,380-square-foot branch that operated inside the Fruita Civic Center for the last 10 years. Prior to that, the branch was located in what is now the Fruita Chamber of Commerce.

The old library was contained within one large room that served as a classroom when the Civic Center was a school. The new library features a children’s room highlighted by an outer-space-themed mural, a section where teenagers have their own reading collection, computers and study area, a quiet reading room with a gas fireplace and tutoring and meeting rooms.

Much like the Community Center with its solar panels, the library incorporated green elements into the building, taking advantage of natural light through skylights and incorporating recycled materials in the carpet. The library also is providing wireless Internet throughout the entire center.

Because of its location within the Community Center and its close proximity to Shelledy Elementary School, Tallman said she envisions a wide spectrum of users, such as seniors picking up a book on their way out of a dance class, gym users grabbing something to look at while working out, and parents finding a distraction while their kids are in swimming lessons.

Tallman said she hopes the new branch creates momentum for the library. She is interested in opening a new branch near Mesa Mall, and library board members are in discussions about renovating and expanding the central library.

There were 59,000 visits to the Fruita branch last year, a 2 percent drop from 2009. But the number of items checked out topped 86,500, a 15 percent climb over 2009.

“People are still using the library. We’ve just maxed out how many people can use it,” library Public Services Director Shana Wade said of the old Fruita branch.


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