For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
January 1, 2003 - New Castle Rock Library Construction Questions
Lately, everywhere I go in Castle Rock, people ask me the same two questions.
The first one is, "What's holding up the roof on the new library?"
The new library, a former Safeway building on Castle Rock's Wilcox Street, is indeed startling from the street. The building used to be a large, dark box - the classic big box construction, where "classic" here means "tilt up concrete."
Over the past several weeks, the Cambria Construction company has been doing just what the plans tell them to do. And at this point, that means they are removing most of the concrete panels on the west side of the building.
How come? Because we need to let some light into that space. By the time we're finished (October-November of this year!), we'll have a lot of glass on the west side. We'll also have a large glass tower on the northeast corner of the building, and at least one large glass panel on the north. The rest of the light will come from windows cut in the walls, as opposed to replacing the panels altogether.
Of course, the removal of all that structural support is what leads to that first question. And here's the answer: the scaffolding. We have structural steel braced under the exposed western roof. It stays until we get the replacement walls up.
The second question people ask me is, "Wouldn't it have been cheaper to scrape it all down and start over?" The answer to that one is, No. We figure we've saved about $50 per square foot by using existing floors, walls, roof, utility connections, and more. Multiply $50 by the approximately 40,000 square feet we're re-using, and that's $2 million. Renovation, generally, is cheaper than new construction. It is unquestionably the case that using the old building lets us build a much better library than we could have afforded otherwise.
A few folks have also asked me a third question: was there any asbestos in the old building? The answer to that one is, Yes, on the back of some of the floor tiles.
We had hoped to disturb so little of it that we could just encapsulate it. Finally, however, we decided to have it all removed - a three day operation involving a sort of Zamboni machine, except instead of grooming the ice, it scraped up the tiles. This was all done under the most careful circumstances, at a cost of $50,000.
But the good news there is that it's all gone. We won't have to worry about it in the future, if we should ever need to cut through the slab.
A fourth and final question that people (mostly old-timers) have posed to me is "Isn't the soil under that building 'funny?'" And the answer to that one is also a Yes. Particularly under the north side, there is very dank, peaty earth that goes to some depth. Because of that, the engineer who designed the expansion to the building some years ago used an innovative under-floor system. Beneath the concrete are 5 foot-deep blocks of styrofoam.
At first, I was worried that this couldn't possibly be strong enough to support the weight of all of our books. Library floors need to stand up to some 125-150 pounds of pressure per square foot. However, to my astonishment, the styrofoam system supports twice that - and has the added advantage of just "floating" over the soil, as opposed to sinking.
What's the bottom line? Older buildings have different problems than newer ones. But we're confident that when we're done with this one, it will be considerably better than it is now. In fact, it will be beautiful.