On the Colorado Library Trail

Sightseeing the Centennial State through a Library Lens

The Adult Library Services Senior Consultant position was a new addition to the Colorado State Library’s Library Development team in September 2022. Though Kieran Hixon is a longtime member of the Colorado State Library team with an over decade tenure, his position, Rural and Small Libraries Consultant, is similarly new (February 2022). Besides being a new role for the state library and a new job for me, I am also new to Colorado as a whole, having come to the Centennial State from the Sunshine State. Once the snow melted and the ice thawed, it was time to tour the state for the first time from the passenger seat of Kieran’s pickup as we traveled from one day to another of the 2023 CLiC & Connect In Person Rural Meetups.

This early May journey took us south to Pueblo, west to Durango, climbing north to Breckenridge, and east to Fort Morgan. Along the way, Kieran and I took the scenic route – which is to say we drove at all because all of Colorado is “the scenic route”… Have you seen Colorado?! – and stopped at libraries along the way.

Pine River Library

Pine River Library’s Story Walk stalls line their garden which was dormant over the winter, but is starting to be sown and tended in the spring and summer. Inside, the library is building a Library of Things display station in the middle of it all.

Pine River is also the only library in the state (that we know of, anyway) that enrolls and renews Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) hunting and fishing licenses. The conversation started with “What’s that?” and pointing to the station and has ended with a promise – that’s already underway – to see how the state library can expand our partnership with CPW to make licensing more accessible to libraries across the state. Listen, man, hunting and fishing are huge in Colorado. Those licenses support the management and stewardship of our state parks and the educational and recreational programs they facilitate.

Mancos Public Library

One of Mancos Public Library’s community members has built them a Little Free Library. That’s right: They didn’t buy a Little Free Library stall, they have their own! Plans are underway to have it posted by the bridge that serves as a walkway connecting the library to the preschools just on the other side of the river. Not only are they working on a Little Free Library, they also have a Little Free Pantry set up by the parking lot for community food access.

Their outdoor spaces include a storytime space with instruments ready for kids to make all the noise in the world. Inside, the Dolly standee courtesy of the Imagination Library welcome kids into the children’s section. A fire place makes a reading corner cozy in the general collection area as well. We arrived just as Mancos opened and the library was full which was a welcome sight – and on a weekday morning no less!

Cortez Library

Cortez Library was bumping by the time we arrived. Almost all the computers were taken by people working on everything from… actually, it’s none of our business. Libraries care that you do whatever you do without some tourist nosing around. With an expansive park beside it and a fantastic spring day outside, I’m not sure I’d have preferred to sit at a computer inside, but that’s how much the community in Cortez loves and values their library.

The newly updated youth services area is something out of a dream. Short stacks make picture books accessible for the littlest library users and a corner of adult-and-kid-sized seating and plush small rugs welcome multigenerational readers to a shared space for kiddos and their caregivers. The new youth services librarian, Maya, was pulling materials for a kids’ program (or putting them back, one can never tell) and walked us through the new storytime room with a mural of animals and greenery decorate the walls. Library Director, Isabella, told us about the ongoing renovations to expand programming space and we got a peek at their Library of Things, which includes a Kill-a-Watt Meter Kit (full disclosure: I geek things in Libraries of Things).

Dolores Public Library

Dolores Public Library is like something out of a storybook or one that AI created a library based on the prompt “Make a library that’s beautiful and green and reminds us of the mountains.” I mean… It’s Pinterest beautiful. It’s #DecorGoals if that’s even a hashtag that exists. Dolores is feet from the Dolores River that’s rushing and running thanks to a generous snowpack coming off the mountains. The river may make holding outdoor programs like storytimes and classes difficult due to limited space but it does provide opportunities of which the library fully avails itself to hold fishing programs and partner with instructors in the area from local organizations and businesses.

Inside, Dolores is just as beautiful. The library’s floor-to-ceiling windows of the main room and the atrium give a breathtaking view of the river– yes, there’s an atrium – offers a quiet space for reading or working. Community art hangs from the atrium’s walls and makes you feel like this is the perfect place to host a community art show with cocktails and small bites. It’s that kind of space. Welcoming, inviting, pleasant, and gorgeous. Hard to believe it’s the inside of a public library.

Meeting with Dolores’s director, Sean, and Adult Services Librarian, Emily, gave us some insight on the Collaborative Summer Learning Program’s (CSLP) theme for the year (All Together Now) and materials. All of that’s been passed along to the CSLP board and to the new Youth Services Consultant at the state library, Kate Brunner. So, too, has the idea to bring the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and CPW partnership fishing 101 program to the library. Incidentally, if this tour turned up nothing else (besides a scenic tour of the state), it turned up a lot of opportunities to connect our libraries with already-existing programs and funding from CPW.

Rico Public Library

Probably my favorite visit of this trip was our stop at Rico Public Library, a library so prone to getting snowed in Susan, the solo librarian who holds down the Rico fort, drives out to Dolores for courier drops. Susan is what everyone should picture as a superhero librarian. We walked in to her processing books for Rico’s general collection. A two-room shop that’s really just a one-room shop with a threshold between, Rico is stocked full of books for a community that’s so remote the closest bookstore is either in Telluride or Cortez – or Amazon… and Prime next day delivery is far from guaranteed if even offered as a possibility for Rico residents.

Susan had books right off my TBR on her desk which is a guarantee I’d be checking it out if I were one of her community members. What else would I be doing at Rico Public Library? Taking the Spanish class, obviously! Rico has a Spanish program! With regular attendees! I also might be taking the Sewing 101 class she has planned for her summer programs – planned because one of her regular patrons asked for it.

Walls lined and carts full of books out the front door for book sales to fund youth services programs, Susan’s there – whether the lights are on or she’s turned them off to save some money. There’s nothing Susan can’t do. I’ve known lots of librarians in my life. Susan is CHOICE. A #RockStar if there ever was one.

Montrose Library of the Montrose Regional Library District

While Kieran and I were planning our drive weeks out from the dates, he kept asking where I wanted to go and the answer was always the same: “It doesn’t matter and I don’t care as long as we go to Montrose.” Why Montrose? Because Laura McLean is there and so is her Book It!-inspired adult library program which is perfect for the Oregon Trail Generation 40-something who still gets rush whenever she sees a puffy star sticker because she knows it means she’s one step closer to that personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. (I’m not saying that I own a purple Book It! sweater, but I’m not not saying that. I’m also not saying that I walked out with the purchase of a Montrose Library t-shirt from the Friends of the Library shop, but I’m also not not saying that.)

Walking through the library and talking with Laura and Taylor, we learned about their programs for collecting recipes from community members for a local cooks’ collection and I was able to share resources from the “Community Cooks” program I created for the Passive Programming for Adults resource kit (take take take take). We flipped through their ingenious and awesome crowdsourced community book reviews, handwritten on old check out cards and organized in an old card catalog drawer. We saw their road map collection – on display and ready to borrow. We met with Montrose’s new Teen Services Department Head, Amy, and Montrose’s active and AI-curious teen creative writers and advisory board members.

But most importantly, Paul, library director at Montrose is a Steve Martin fan. Which, honestly, makes Montrose at least 10% better than if he wasn’t. He’s also a fan of Rick Moranis, which makes him a My Blue Heaven fan. Let’s bump that up to 12% better.

New Castle Branch of Garfield County Libraries

The visit to New Castle Branch was unplanned – or, at least, the visit to New Castle during this trip was unplanned and largely due to an unprecedented COTrip alert about a sink hole on our intended route. At least we got that notification before we rode out of Montrose. Had the trip been planned, I might have had the chance to email library director, Ana Gaytán, to whom I promised a visit when the snow let up. Though we didn’t find Ana there (director are, in fact, allowed to have days off), we did find the library promoting the upcoming Free Comic Book Day – one of my favorite book-related holidays – and a display for and tribute to Studio Ghibli and genius founder, Hayao Miyazaki. With the flowers in bloom and petals falling from the trees carried by the breeze on a beautiful spring day outside, it felt like a Miyazaki movie.

What else did we find? My favorite library find of all time: The Aunt Flow free period product dispenser in the public restroom!

Note to Ana and New Castle: I’ll be back in September for the Hispanic Heritage Fest!


The idea for a tour of the libraries – a video journal of clips and a blog entry with quick facts – sprang up after the start of the trip so forgive us (me, especially) for awesome programs and conversations that don’t make it onto this post. With hopefully many more to come, this is just one way Library Development is highlighting the wonderful work you do and the sometimes bizarre, always amazing, definitely nuanced, and incredibly thoughtful ways our libraries serve our communities.


Cristy Moran