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Our View: What’s your Durango ‘secret?’

One of us was at a party recently where we played what was once called a “parlor game,” in which people told of their favorite secrets about Durango – things they liked to do, go or see that perhaps not everyone knew about.

Of course, we never think of clever answers to such games until later, when what we should have said seems obvious. But rather than just tell you our fabulous “secret” about Durango, we thought we’d see if you can answer this quiz.

Where in Durango can you:

  • Sit on a second-story balcony overlooking the Animas River, reading, having a chat or just listening to the water?
  • Or use a quiet, private space with free Wi-Fi as an office-away-from-home (with free parking, no less)?
  • Or take a break from such enjoyments long enough to grab a coffee and cookie at the in-house café?

If you guessed the Durango Public Library, you are correct.

Some of you probably didn’t. You may be among those who believe, as a a friend of ours said dismissively, “Oh, a library is just a place to get internet access.”

“That is one of the things people need,” said Sandy Irwin, director of the 42,800-square-foot library since 2010. “There are lots of people with no Wi-Fi at their homes. But people still read books.”

Before COVID-19, La Plata County’s 55,000 residents were checking out between 350,000 and 400,000 books a year, she said. Irwin doesn’t have more recent circulation data, but when the library reopened to limited hours March 2, she said, “People came in and just started touching the books. People like to feel books, to open them, touch the jackets ...”

On June 16, the library extended its hours to 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Of course, traditional books aren’t the only things available at the library. The library has collections in Spanish and in large print, plus a spectacular children’s collection. A special Southwest Colorado Collection includes many out-of-print books. The Durango Herald archive before 2011 is available on a computer. The library is an official U.S. Patent and Trademark Center, offering assistance to those who have a stake in work they want to protect.

And then there is that in-house café, Common Grounds, operated by Durango School District 9-R high school students, and the Friends of the Durango Public Library shop, where you can buy a book you’ve wanted for a slice of its original price and help support the library at the same time. Plus, the library has an exquisite, if small, art collection, much of it referencing reading, such as Melissa Zink’s “Guardians,” a trio of bronze figures imprinted with words and phrases, like a map of language.

Did we mention books? Let’s do the numbers. The library has 72,607 printed books; 3,537 electronic books; 18,830 audio books, downloadable audio books, and music CDs; 8,934 DVDs; 127 magazine and newspaper subscriptions; and offers access to 32 databases. Plenty of reading, listening and researching opportunities there.

So, sure – you can use the Wi-Fi at the library free. But there’s so much more to be had in its gorgeous, light-filled spaces, filled with comfortable chairs, study carrels and some of the best views in Durango. Designed by Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver, the $13.3 million building opened in 2008 remains, in our estimation, worth every cent. We’re lucky to have a library of this size and with these services; it far outstrips libraries in most similarly sized towns.

Stop in someday soon. Take the kids for the afternoon the Durango Public Library could turn out to be your little “secret,” too. Check it out!