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Local libraries offer services, places to gather close to home

Johnson

Let me introduce you to two hidden gems in La Plata County: The Fort Lewis Mesa and Sunnyside public libraries.

These libraries are unique in La Plata County because they are physically located within public schools. During the day, they serve as school libraries; after school hours and during spring and summer breaks, they are public libraries. The Fort Lewis Mesa branch has been in existence since 1981; the Sunnyside branch since 1999.

When it became clear several years ago that these public libraries were in danger of closing because of a lack of funding, some local book lovers got together to try to find a way to save these community treasures. They sought to establish a special district with a dedicated funding source that would allow these public spaces to continue serving patrons living in the southern and western portions of La Plata County.

In 2019, the Southwest La Plata Library District was born when voters in the district boundaries approved a ballot measure authorizing its formation. Since then, the library district has expanded its collections, increased hours of operation, improved programming, and hired new and additional personnel. We have also begun collaborating with Durango, Ignacio and Pine River libraries to develop outreach opportunities for all of La Plata County. In March, we are pleased to co-host virtual classes with Nicole Clark from La Plata County CSU Extension on the Mediterranean/Dash Diet (March 10) and Northern African cuisine (March 31). To learn more about these and other offerings, please visit the Events tab on our Southwest La Plata Library District Facebook page.

The value of rural libraries cannot be overstated. Of course, they are great places to find books and DVDs, and we are adding to our collections regularly. Patrons can also find audiobooks for commutes to town or upcoming road trips and even check out a Colorado State Parks pass offering free admission to state parks. But more than that, rural libraries are places to build and strengthen communities. In the library, we can hold book clubs and 4-H meetings, gather for story time, make crafts and attend lectures. We can also do homework or work on a group project, use the computers and printers, and play games.

Just as for everyone else, 2020 was a challenging year for libraries. Many of our services had to be delivered remotely or curbside for much of the year. Yet we have confidence that in 2021 we will once again be able to gather in person with our friends and neighbors. The Southwest La Plata Library District is excited to offer community members in Breen, Marvel, Kline, Redmesa, Hesperus, Florida Mesa and Sunnyside a library and gathering place close to home.

The Sunnyside and Fort Lewis Mesa libraries are open from 2 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday. Currently, we are offering curbside service.

To learn more about the libraries in the Southwest La Plata Library District and the services we offer, reach out to me at pjohnson.swlpld@gmail.com or 375-3816.

Patricia Johnson is interim director of Southwest La Plata Library District.