If the thought of visiting a public library conjures up images of dusty, dark rooms, uncomfortable chairs, and strict women shushing you, Nicolle Ingui Davies will make you think again.
Davies, a Littleton native and the executive director of Arapahoe Libraries, was recently selected as Library Journal’s 2016 Librarian of the Year, in part because her work has helped create innovative branches that are in no way similar to that archaic view of libraries.
“One of the greatest challenges we face in the industry is an antiquated perception of what the public library is. We’re striving to make our spaces beautiful, welcoming, and accomodating,” says Davies. Combating those assumptions goes beyond comfier chairs—it’s about fostering a space where patrons can actually relax and learn something. At the Arapahoe branches, you can bring snacks, access speedy Wi-Fi, and collaborate with others on various group projects. You can also attend classes on tracking your ancestry or meet an author at a book-signing event.
“We want the library to be like a community living room,” says Davies.
Arapahoe Libraries has also implemented a variety of services to help patrons become more tech savvy. From offering basic coding classes to giving visitors the chance to play around with beta technology, including 3-D printers and virtual reality headsets, before these items hit the mainstream market, they’re aiming to keep their branches up-to-date. Library card holders can also set up an appointment with a librarian (either by calling 303-LIBRARY or going online) if they want to learn more about gadgets they received for Christmas, develop a start-up business plan, or simply learn how to FaceTime their relatives.
Davies’ leadership skills in developing such a valuable set of services, along with her excellent communication skills—she and the AL staff helped convince voters to approve a tax hike last fall, increasing library funding by nearly $6 million—ultimately earned Davies this national recognition, making her the first Coloradan to receive the award.
“I hope this encourages people to visit their public libraries in Colorado,” says Davies. “In this state, we’re doing some really innovative and cutting-edge things.”