Like a phoenix rising from internet-induced public library ashes, the Pine River Public Library is proving itself far from obsolete –in fact, it’s thriving. On the road between Pagosa Springs and Durango, Bayfield is rarely a destination, but rather, a fuel station for those passing through. Little do these gas-guzzlers know, just a few blocks away lies a nationally acclaimed resource binding this small community together. In 2014, the Library Journal recognized the Pine River Public Library as the “Best Small Library in America”. The library received the accolade because of a major renovation project-which included a building expansion and development of an outdoor “Living Library.” The 4,000-square-foot renovations and the 17,000-square-foot outdoor space infused the library with new energy and prominence.
The Imagination Room is the focal piece of the library for the community’s children. With fund from the El Pomar Foundation, this playful glass room is located in the center of the building. The room is outfitted with a with a SMART board that staff use during interactive story-time. With a smorgasbord of toys to match the developmental abilities of all ages, children are well served within the community. Staff hold weekly programs to engage children in learning, reading comprehension, and curiosity about the world around them. With these programs alone, the library served more than 4,000 children in 2014.
Outside the Imagination Room, an interactive Science Corner provides yet another opportunity for discovery and exploration for children. The Science Corner includes a high-powered moon viewing activity kit, fish and frogs for observation, and microscopes for structured science learning activities that rotate periodically. The library is now a part of the school bus route, allowing students to take full advantage of all it has to offer.
The community garden features 24 raised beds, a straw-bale tool shed, a beehive, a geodesic dome greenhouse, a fruit orchard, and five Nature Explore learning areas for children. A partnership with the Bayfield Garden Club brings in dozens of volunteers to assist with annual maintenance and upkeep, and the library sells beds for a nominal fee each season to community groups and families to plant as a fundraiser. In the summer, the library uses the gardens to teach ecology, botany, and sustainability, and to conduct healthy eating classes using the produce from the garden. Next to the garden, a large blank exterior wall provides the perfect backdrop for a summer movie series, uniting residents under the stars for education and fun.
With its myriad of resources, the Pine River Public Library will certainly serve as the cornerstone of its community for years to come. El Pomar is honored to engage in such a project and looks forward to seeing the library enrich the town with passions for discovery, learning, and community.