Gunbarrel doesn't have a library. This community of 12K+ (according to 2016 data), located to northeast of the city, has been asking for library services for decades. Because the community straddles the Boulder's city limits, many residents live in unincorporated portions of Boulder County, outside of the library's current municipal service area. As a result, public amenities are hard to come by, despite documented community need and demand. It's time to change that!
According to the Boulder Public Library's 2018 Master Plan, 87% of Gunbarrel residents rated the library's services as "good or excellent". However:
Fifty-seven percent of Gunbarrel cardholders must drive between 10 and 15 minutes, and 43 percent must drive between 15 and 20 minutes to reach the closest BPL location identified as the Meadows Branch Library. This is the furthest average travel time of any Boulder residents. Many of the BPL patrons who reside in Gunbarrel and participated in the Master Plan community survey and other engagement events expressed enthusiastic interest in getting some form of library service in the area. They view the public library as critical to creating a vital community center, a place where they can interact with their neighbors and a safe and welcoming place for children and families to learn and play."
A library district will provide library services in Gunbarrel for the first time (well, former director Marcelee Gralapp did manage to get a small grant to run a library branch out of the Heatherwood elementary school for two years in the 1960s).
When we polled residents of the potential library district in April 2022, two-thirds of respondents living outside of the city supported the district. And measure 6C on the November ballot will specifically list a Gunbarrel branch as a priority for funding. A library district will bring tangible improvements to Gunbarrel!
Our volunteers have spent countless hours in conversation with Gunbarrel neighbors, and one of the most frequent questions they here is 'where.' Where would a new branch library be located?
Planning and constructing a new facility is a lengthy process, so if voters approve a library district in November, Gunbarrel would first get a corner library in a rented space. Corner libraries are small facilities that open in advance of a full branch, offering basic services and building support for a larger investment. Corner libraries are small but mighty. They offer a place to pick up and drop off materials, saving patrons a longer trip. They can offer language and literacy classes, story times, and other popular programs. And by attracting regular visitors, they create a sense of community and belonging. Boulder’s first corner library opened in a North Boulder storefront in 2014, quickly became one of the busiest places in the neighborhood, and paved the way for the new branch set to open in 2023.
The Board of Trustees of the new library district would ultimately be responsible for selecting and securing a long-term location. In some cases, the library negotiates free or very low cost leases because commercial property owners see a value in its presence. Libraries draw regular visitors who then patronize nearby businesses. In this scenario, Gunbarrel Center, would be an ideal location for a new branch library, given its proximity to groceries, cafes, bus lines, and other services.
But whatever the final location, Gunbarrel neighbors will have a say! The library district's mission will be to serve everyone within its borders, and residents can serve on or lobby its board. That's a powerful step for an area that's overdue for community amenities. Voting yes on 6C this fall will give Gunbarrel the library it deserves!