Denver Public Library wants $51 million for surveillance, safety and other renovations at central branch

Following a number of reports of drug use and violence at Denver Central Library, there are short-term and long-term plans to improve safety.

Folks who asked not to be named chat at the Denver Public Library info desk. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The Denver Central Library. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver public library; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado; dplbroadway
The Denver Central Library. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Following a number of reports of drug use and violence at Denver Central Library, the institution has announced a number of short-term changes for its central facility. The library also requested $50 million earlier this year for renovations in part to address similar concerns.

We’ll review the short- and long-term plans in this post.

Context:

The library is one of the largest free and publicly accessible indoor spaces in Denver. It’s a natural spot for people to seek refuge — and some bring with them addictions to heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs.

This year, after an overdose death, library staff began stocking the anti-overdose medication Naloxone. Attention on the library continued with a 9News investigation that reported a significant spike in fights, assaults, trespassing calls and overdoses at the central branch.

Now the library’s leadership is responding with a letter outlining a series of actions.

The Denver Central Library. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver public library; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado; dplbroadway
The Denver Central Library. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
In the short term:

Library staff will continue to expel people who violate library policies or engages in illegal activity in a library. They already maintain a book of photos and names of people who have been banned, as 9News reported.

Meanwhile, the Denver Police Department will increase patrols of the central library, while the library itself will hire four new security guards.

The library also will install “several new cameras” and replace older equipment, a project that will continue “as budget allows.”

The library already has enacted limits on the number and size of bags that people can bring into the building, installed containers for safe needle disposal, and hired five people who focus on helping people with “behavior concerns.”

“The library will continue to address these challenges to quickly and appropriately return customer and public trust. We want you to feel safe here,” wrote city library Michelle Jeske and library commission president Rosemary Marshall.

Folks who asked not to be named chat at the Denver Public Library info desk. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; dplbroadway; denver public library; books;
In the stacks at the Denver Central Library. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
The $51 million plan:

Earlier this year, the library proposed a major renovation plan to, in part, make it easier to watch visitors to the library.

Library leadership is asking for $50 million for the project, which potentially would come from the $900 million bond package that’s expected to go before voters for approval this fall. However, the distribution of those funds still isn’t decided, so none of this is even remotely guaranteed.

Anyway, the plan is meant to address “significant safety and security issues, correcting deferred maintenance,” while allowing for “modern library programs, services and resources” in the 540,000-square-foot building. To be clear, this was in the works before the latest wave of news reports.

The proposal includes the “lowering of shelving,” which should make it easier to see around the library. “Sightlines and visibility are compromised throughout the building, placing customers and staff at risk,” the proposal states.

The library also wants to enclose its North Lawn, near 14th Avenue, to create “secure learning and play spaces.”

Meanwhile, the security office could move to the first floor to allow for quicker responses, and the children’s area would be moved to a “larger, more secure and visible area” on the first floor.

Other changes include the modernization of “(s)urveillance, electricity and technology infrastructures,” as well as the replacement of elevators and the installation of “enhanced” lighting.

The library also wants to move its event center to the first floor, and to create a new center for teenagers. The proposal is based off the Central Library Vision Plan created in 2016.

The library also is requesting money for renovations at a number of its other facilities and a potential new library in Westwood. Again, I’d expect these funding numbers and the proposal to change. We should see a final proposal for the citywide spending plan this summer.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.