Special to Colorado Community Media
The Jefferson County Public Library has shared its resources and space with Conifer High School for almost three decades, but that could soon change.
The Library Board of Trustees will decide whether to move the library out of the high school in the coming months — a plan community members said would expand public access to the library because it is closed to the public during the school day.
For Conifer students, however, removing the public library from the school may have consequences.
"It's a really big plus to have that resource in our building and to have access not only to this library but to all the other Jeffco public libraries, so kids can place holds,” Conifer digital teacher/librarian Karen McIntosh said. “That just really doesn't happen anywhere else.”
Between 400 and 500 students use the library daily during school hours, according to the gate count the school conducted this school year.
According to Jeffco Public School, there has not been any conversation about dissolving the partnership Conifer High School has with Jefferson County Public Libraries.
The Conifer library has never had its own building. When the Conifer branch joined JCPL in 1954, it had a small space inside the Little White Schoolhouse on Barkley Road, according to the Conifer Historical Society. The library moved into the high school when the school opened in 1996.
Every book in the Conifer library belongs to JCPL, in addition to all but two of the library desktop computers. The high school and public librarians regularly collaborate to provide programs for students, such as a “speed dating” project several English classes at the high school participated in earlier this year, where McIntosh worked with public librarians to reserve popular teen books from across the library system, so students could sample a variety of books to find one they were interested in reading.
Even outside of class, CHS students view the library as an asset.
"I mostly use (the library) when I want to study and also when I have a free period,” CHS senior Ana Tena said. “I find it as a place to just come and chill and just relax for a little bit."
After the school day ends and the library opens its doors to the public, some students use the space to wait for sports practice to begin, while others meet with tutors or study groups.
The public library even hosts workshops and classes specifically for students. Last month, courtesy of student requests, the public library brought in a guest speaker to teach teens about credit scores and finances.
"The main idea of our programs is to make (the library) more of a social place to interact,” said Kyler Wesner, the teen librarian coordinator for the Evergreen and Conifer libraries.
To make the library more accessible during school hours, JCPL offers a 24/7 book drop-off container in the front circle of the school, as well as the option to pick up books on hold during the school day at the nearby Mountain Resource Center. This summer the library will also offer expanded hours during the day, but some Conifer students, particularly those with younger siblings, feel that this isn’t enough.
“I can definitely see how there would be some frustration for people who want an actual public library,” said CHS senior Nicholas Ditmore.