At the core of any great university is a great library. On the downtown Denver Campus, the Auraria Library serves the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Community College of Denver on the Auraria Campus.
It is interesting to note that when this library first opened in 1976, it was designed to serve a maximum of just 15,000 students. Today, as the only tri-institutional academic library in the nation, the Auraria Library is the intellectual home of nearly 45,000 students in the same 180,000 square-foot space and welcomes nearly a million visitors each year.
The Auraria Library Illumination Gala was held recently to raise funds and to promote awareness. Library Director Mary Somerville (see top photo) said, “In addition, we wanted guests to have a good time!”
Somerville explained, “The gala theme ‘trip the light fantastic’ evolved through a series of usages and references. The phrase is typically attributed to Milton’s poem L’Allegro, but a similar phrase appears in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest.'”
The program began with a video which tells the story of one Auraria student’s journey of exploration – from Nepal to Auraria Library. In keeping with the gala explorer/dreamer theme, local radio personality and program emcee Amelia Earhart walked to the podium to the tune of ‘fly me to the moon,’ reminiscent – of her ancestor – of her recent cross continental flight.
Dennis Humphries, principal, Humphries-Poli Architects, who is working with the library ‘pro bono’ and assisting with fund raising, spoke to guests about the renovation aspirations. Ideas on the ‘drawing board’ include: improved individual study spaces for the second floor; ‘micro-environments’ for collaborative work on the first floor; a multi-purpose covered courtyard atrium for improved space utilization; entrance ‘energy saving’ enhancements in the entrance foyer; ‘main street’ designations for improved facility flow; Center for Colorado & the West multimedia production facilities; and overall improved sustainability practices, including new HVAC and window and façade systems.
As Mary Somerville stated in her concluding program remarks: “An anonymous half-million dollar donation catalyzed a two-million dollar renovation. As a consequence, local foundations and philanthropic donors contributed. Phase One construction addresses students priorities of construction of more collaborative study rooms, new healthy choices café, and improved restroom facilities. We have realized these basic requirements …and now we’re ready to explore other student success enhancements. Come dream with us!”
Paul and Patricia Zecchi served as honorary co-chairs who insured generous corporate sponsorships from Central Resources, First Western Trust, SM Energy, Petrie Partners LLC, IMA Insurance, and other anonymous donors. As a consequence, the Library is well on its way to meeting its $250,000 gala goal.
Auraria Library Instructional Designer Joseph Sanchez noted, “I enjoyed chatting with Paul Zecchi about old books and enjoyed seeing his heart felt support for the Auraria Library.”
Cindy Hashert, associate director of Education, Research, and Information Services said, “It was a magical evening with old and new friends/supporters.”
Indicative of Library staff support, Marical Farner, Auraria Library associate director of administrative services, said, “The diversity of guests – from academics to artists to oil and gas industry leaders to government officials – affirmed that the library’s importance in the academy and the community.”
In making the ‘case’ to support renovation of the library, library staff members note that not only are more persons being served, but the library also must operate in an entirely new context of technology for information exchange and knowledge production. The renovation of the Auraria Library will transform the very idea of the term “library.” It will create a physical and intellectual space specifically designed to support exploration.