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Garfield County Libraries History

In 1938 as a Works Progress Administration project at New Castle, Colorado. Mrs. Harriett Stewart was the first librarian and was very efficient in organizing the library.

The library was originally located in the New Castle school building. The library served the entire county, both rural and urban areas, as well as all of the school districts. The collection originally consisted of around 14,000 books and had a yearly circulation of 75,000. The collection was augmented by generous loans from the Colorado State Library.


When WPA was discontinued, the Garfield County Commissioners agreed to take over sponsorship and finance it from the county’s general fund.

The Carbondale City Library became the first branch of the county library system in 1964. In 1968, the New Castle Branch’s current building was erected as the main library of the system. The Glenwood Springs City Library became a branch of county library system in 1969, followed by Rifle in 1976 and Silt in 1980. In 1984, a new library was built in Carbondale. In 1982, the library in Parachute became the final branch of the county library system.

The Garfield County Public Library District receives one-quarter of Garfield County’s one cent sales tax as well as 1.5 mills of property tax in perpetuity. The District also receives a mill of property tax through 2027 that was passed in 2006 and used to build and remodel all six facilities.

The Roosevelt Window was originally commissioned in 1905 for $105 in Rifle’s new Christian church in commemoration of the one day on which the president was an honored member of their congregation. A fund drive was launched in 1980 when the window was offered for sale. It was purchased by the Heritage Windows Trust (a citizen group) for $35,000 and is currently on permanent loan from them to the Library District. This amount was raised in Rifle, a community with an adult population of around 2,000 at the time, in three and a half months. The window was fully restored in 2010 for about $20,000.

In 2006, Garfield County voters approved a one mill levy for construction and improvements to all six library buildings. The voters also approved the creation of the Garfield County Public Library District (GCPLD) which is separate from Garfield County.

  • Rifle Branch Library – 30,000 sq. ft. – opened 11/20/2010 – Barker Rinker Seacat Architects 
  • Parachute Branch Library – 9,000 sq. ft. – opened 09/11/2010 – Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture
  • New Castle Branch Library – 11,000 sq. ft. – opened 4/14/2012 – A4 Architects
  • Silt Branch Library – 7,500 sq. ft. – opened 10/06/2012 – OZ Architecture
  • Carbondale Branch Library – 13,000 sq. ft. – opened 07/20/2013 – Willis Pember Architects
  • Glenwood Springs Branch Library – 28,000 sq. ft. – opened 09/14/2013 – Humphries Poli Architecture 
    Glenwood Springs is a combined use facility housing called Morgridge Commons that houses a 16,000 sq. ft. library, underground parking for Colorado Mountain College, and second floor space (16,000 sq. ft.) for both entities.

Two of the buildings, Parachute and New Castle, were remodeled and expanded. The 1984 building in Rifle was razed to make room for a parking structure that serves all of downtown Rifle. The buildings in Silt, Glenwood Springs, and Carbondale were traded to the local municipalities for either land or cash toward the project. 

Gordon Cooper Library.

Branch Histories

The first library in Carbondale, established in 1941, was an offshoot of the Pitkin County Free Library system and located in the Wilson Drug store. The small Carbondale branch library was “maintained for the convenience of those living considerable distance from the main library in Aspen and the books at these branches are exchanged at intervals so there is a new supply of reading material available at all times.” In 1962, Carbondale Town Council took action to create a public library named in honor of astronaut Gordon Cooper, an American astronaut from Carbondale. Mrs. Charles Thomas and Mrs. John Wilson spearheaded a local fund drive in January 1963 with the goal of raising $3,000 for books, equipment, and operating expenses for the new library. By 1964, children’s story hour was being held at the library. Mrs. V. Anderson was the Carbondale librarian at the time. The Carbondale City Library became the first branch of the county library system in 1964. In 1984, a new library was built in Carbondale. Source: The Aspen Times, Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection
The first Glenwood Springs library opened in 1921. By a vote of the school board, the school district donated a “splendid room” on the first floor of the school building for the public library. In 1924, the local newspaper noted how many people, visitors and parents alike, appreciated that Glenwood had a library where “guests in the city may go for books, parents being especially grateful for books for their children.” Glenwood Springs became a branch of Garfield County Libraries in 1969.Partnering with Colorado Mountain College, construction on the building housing the new Glenwood Springs Branch was completed in September 2013. Search: Glenwood springs library, 1900-1968 Source: The Avalance-Echo, The Glenwood Post
The New Castle library was first established in 1938 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Mrs. Harriett Stewart was the first librarian and was very efficient in organizing the library. The library was originally located in the New Castle school building. The library served the entire county, both rural and urban areas, as well as all of the school districts. The collection originally consisted of around 14,000 books and had a yearly circulation of 75,000. The collection was augmented by generous loans from the Colorado State Library. When the WPA was discontinued, the Garfield County Commissioners agreed to take over sponsorship and finance it from the county’s general fund. The New Castle Branch Library is located in the historic downtown area of New Castle, Colorado. The library has been at its current location, 402 W Main Street, since 1968.
Parachute Branch Library has been serving the people of Battlement Mesa, Parachute, and neighboring communities for over 38 years. The Parachute Branch Library was established January 24, 1983. The Garfield County Commissioners desired oil lease money be spent on community improvement and the library was borne. Sadly, the oil shale industry was short lived and the town dropped into a depression and was remarketed as a retirement community creating another boom and in 2004 the library was remodeled. The library’s last major remodel and addition was completed on September 11, 2010. Currently, the branch boasts over 9,000 square feet.
The Rifle Reading Club, founded in 1907, established a lending library consisting primarily of popular fiction. The library was kept in Mr A. Glover’s jewelry store on Main Street. In 1926, The Rifle Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood convened a discussion to organize a proper library for the town. Thirty one dollars to support the library was collected at the first meeting. The money covered the cost to rent a room and install bookshelves. In 1928, voters approved a mill levy to support the library and the library moved to City Hall in 1952. The Town Council voted to turn over management of the Rifle Library to the County Library System in 1975. A new Rifle Library was dedicated in 1984 and the famous “Roosevelt Window” was installed in the library. In 2010, the community attended the grand opening of a new two-story Rifle Library at its new location, 207 East Avenue.
The current Silt library held its grand opening on October 6, 2012.

Annual Reports

After 2 years of the pandemic, 2022 was a year of recovery. Library staff tirelessly worked to bring our programming, services, and circulation back up to pre-Covid levels. At the beginning of 2022, we completed our plan to expand library hours and opened up all 6 branches to full services on Sundays. This was also a year of new leadership with the promotion of 3 staff members to Library Branch Manager, the addition of a new board member, and the hire of our new Executive Director, Jamie LaRue. One of our major goals for the year and going forward was to further extend our services to the local Hispanic community. In September, we hosted our first annual Hispanic Heritage Festival at the Rifle Branch Library, attracting over 500 people! In addition, we also hosted our first ESL class in years and began greatly expanding our Spanish language materials. And, last but not least, our largest programming event, the Summer Reading Challenge saw a record number of participants and minutes read.

View the 2022 Annual Report

The world was still in the midst of the pandemic when 2021 started. However, our libraries remained open and continuously made adjustments to keep services and programming available to our patrons. We began bringing back on-site programs by mid-year, starting with our Storytimes. In the fall, we began implementing expanded hours at all six branches, which was one of the big initiatives we promised the voters of Garfield County when they passed our mill levy in 2019. Other highlights of the year include the launch of our laptop loan program and focusing on strategies to recruit and retain qualified staff to better serve our community for years to come.

View the 2021 Annual Report

Needless to say, 2020 was a year like no other. We started out the year with plans to expand staffing, hours, and services. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic. This challenging time showed the incredible resilience and resourcefulness of our entire staff, who quickly adapted, transitioning all of our events and programming online and adopting quarantine and sanitation protocols to our operations. While most libraries closed their doors for the better part of a year, Garfield County Libraries, thanks to our staff and the support of our patrons, was only closed for 6 weeks while still expanding staff and resources.  

View the 2020 Annual Report

We reached out to the community to find out what was most important to those we serve. The libraries decided to go on the ballot for a mill levy increase because of the feedback we received and the need for stable funding to reach our goals. Voters approved the mill levy and restored healthy funding levels to the libraries allowing us to restore hours, retain qualified staff, maintain access to educational classes and events, improve technology, maintain library buildings, and purchase more books.

View the 2019 Annual Report

We celebrated our 80th anniversary with over a half-million visitors, who read nearly a half-million library books in 2018. However, continued declines to revenues meant that the library board and staff remained focused on pursuing financial sustainability. One step toward this goal was to ask voters if the Library District could DeBruce (retain all tax revenue it is allowed to collect). Voters approved with an astonishing 73% in favor of the ballot measure.

View the 2018 Annual Report

Our libraries faced tremendous challenges in 2017 due to a $1.2 million decrease in property tax revenue, which equated to a roughly thirty percent drop in our operations budget. Despite these challenges, staff continued to work hard to keep the libraries running as well as began the process for a new strategic plan.

View the 2017 Annual Report

In 2016, we welcomed our new Executive Director and faced decreasing property tax revenues alongside an increase in use of library services by our communities.

View the 2016 Annual Report

In 2015, we focused on increasing the quality of events and materials in our buildings while also saying fond farewells to our award-winning Executive Director and longtime board members.

View the 2015 Annual Report

2014 was another exciting year of growth for the Garfield County Libraries. We shifted focus from building libraries, to building community.

View the 2014 Annual Report

We marked our 75th anniversary by lending over 675,000 items and hosting almost 1,400 events. In addition, we completed our construction phase by opening the final two new libraries in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. 

View the 2013 Annual Report

We celebrated the grand openings of the New Castle and Silt Branches and broke ground on new libraries in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. 

View the 2012 Annual Report

We implemented the Prospector network for borrowing materials statewide as well as a mobile app, GCPLD 2 GO. We also continued working on new facilities hiring architects for three projects in Silt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs which began their design phases in 2011.

View the 2011 Annual Report

We celebrated the grand openings of our new Parachute and Rifle Branches and continued working toward new branches in our other communities.

View the 2010 Annual Report

In 2009 we broke ground on our capital improvement projects, including renovation of the Parachute Branch and construction of a new Rifle Branch.

View the 2009 Annual Report

2008 was a great year for the Garfield County Public Library District! We saw increases in circulation, programming, and library card holders.

View the 2008 Annual Report

On January 1, 2007, the Garfield County Public Library System became the Garfield County Public Library District. The District also welcomed new Executive Director Amelia Shelley.

View the 2007 Annual Report

Voters approved a one mill property tax increase for 20 years, paving the way for major capital improvement projects for all six branches.

View the 2006 Annual Report

Awards & Recognitions

Your Garfield County Libraries strive to provide the highest quality materials and services for our community. As a result of these efforts, we have been the recipients of a number of local, state, and national awards. Please join us in celebrating these accomplishments and looking toward a bright future for our libraries.

Lisa Detweiler was chosen as the recipient of the “Lucy Schweers Award” in 2021. This annual award recognizes a library staff member in Colorado who demonstrates outstanding leadership and serves patrons and communities in a way that goes beyond the basic requirements of their job. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lisa served as the interim Education and Events Manager and led the Garfield County Libraries in adapting all of our events to an online format as well as continuing our goal of outreach to the LatinX community.

Laurin Arnold accepted the prestigious “Library Partnership of the Year” award in 2020 for her team’s work on the Business & Breakfast event series. This award is given to one partnership in the state each year – regardless of library or community size. Branch Manager of the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, Arnold brought together important stakeholders including the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Colorado Mountain College, BlizzardPress, and RiverBlend Coffee to collaborate on training events for local businesses. Each partner brought something unique to the series – from business knowledge to marketing expertise, and from reputation of hosting quality events to delicious breakfast treats. The series has gained popularity over the past few years for both the subject of events and the quality of the presentations. During the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown, the Business & Breakfast team sprang into action and created weekly virtual content for businesses struggling with various aspects of the shutdown. The online events cultivated a dialog when many could not leave their homes, nor get together in person to figure out their next course of action. These efforts gave an important lifeline to many who struggled with getting relevant and reliable information during that tumultuous time.

Garfield County Libraries and Brand Manager Emily Hisel were presented with two distinct “PR Xchange Awards” in 2016. The annual awards recognize the very best public relations materials produced by libraries in the past year. The Garfield County Libraries’ “Welcome to the Library” brochure won for “Advocacy Materials -Print.” The bilingual, accordion-fold brochure was designed to give an overview of library resources to new library members. Additionally, the libraries won for their ten library card designs in the category “Patron Orientation Materials – Print.” While most library systems have one library card, the Garfield County Libraries offered choices designed around the library’s tagline, Find Your Story. Patrons can choose a card that appeals to them or best fits their interests – from zombies to superheroes, and from outdoor adventures to universe exploration.

Amelia Shelley and her husband Jim (center), along with Library Board Trustee Bill Lamont (right) and his wife Joan (left) at the awards banquet.

Amelia Shelley was presented with the “Legacy Award” in 2014 for her work as Executive Director of the Garfield County Libraries as well as active membership in the community including participation in Literacy Outreach, Rifle Rotary, Garfield County Human Services Commission, and Cradle to Careers. Most notably, Shelley led the libraries during the construction and remodeling of all six library facilities – which were all completed on time, under budget, and in only five years’ time.