Until recently, the closest thing most West Colfax neighborhood residents had to a public library was the Little Free Library (a converted mailbox with about a dozen books) in the front yard of a house near Cheltenham Elementary School. The nearest actual library sat a couple of miles away, across at least one highway. No big thing if you’ve got a car, but many of West Colfax’s citizens use public transportation as their primary means of travel. So when it came time for Denver to build its newest library—the last of three constructed as a result of the 2007 infrastructure ballot package—the city planted it between two light-rail stops. “Our goal is to have a library for everyone to walk to,” says Chris Henning, marketing communications manager for Denver Public Library.
The two-story, 27,000-square-foot Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch opened on February 28 at the corner of West Colfax and Irving Street. Named in honor of the late featherweight boxer, poet, and leader of the local and national Chicano movement, the $13.9 million library sits in the middle of a diverse neighborhood—a fact architecture firm Studiotrope Design Collective pays homage to with colorful panels that wrap the building’s exterior. Inside, the Gonzales branch boasts a Community Learning Plaza that hosts regular programming for new immigrants: everything from English language practice to citizenship test prep. No childcare? No problem. While Mom and Dad study, the kids get creative during free arts and crafts classes.
Older kids (and parents too) can play in an entirely different way in the library’s music and media room. The area’s high-tech equipment gives patrons the ability to make their own music, movies, and even 3-D models. An interactive media kiosk, designed by the Gonzales family to share Rodolfo’s legacy, will be added to the library soon. “One of the big things that we try to dispel is that Denver’s public libraries are not always the quiet places libraries are known to be,” Henning says. Of course, for those who are looking for the sound of silence, the Gonzales branch’s outdoor reading room presents plenty of opportunities to indulge in some serious reading—and sun worshipping.