There are nearly 3,000 special districts in the state of Colorado, including library districts, park districts, water districts, fire districts, and many others. Every year, one district from those thousands is chosen by the Special District Association of Colorado to receive its highest honor, the J. Evan Goulding District of the Year Award. We are excited to announce that the SDA has chosen Pikes Peak Library District as this year's recipient!
The J. Evan Goulding District of the Year Award was established by the SDA Board of Directors to single out a district that demonstrates exceptional leadership and community spirit. This award recognizes a district's major accomplishments, series of outstanding efforts, and a steady determination to serve its constituency. This year's winner, Pikes Peak Library District, truly exemplifies these qualities.
The history of public libraries in the Pikes Peak Region began in October 1885 when the Colorado Springs Social Union established a library in downtown Colorado Springs. In 1905, a new library opened with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie and land granted by General William Jackson Palmer. In 1962, a majority of El Paso County citizens voted to establish a special taxing district, and Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) was formed. After not joining the District initially in 1962, the town of Manitou Springs subsequently voted to join PPLD at the beginning of 2013.
As the second largest library system in Colorado, PPLD serves a population of more than 660,000 residents in El Paso
County, with the exception of Security/Widefield School District #3. This includes all unincorporated areas and municipalities of Calhan, Colorado Springs, Ellicott, Falcon, Fountain, Manitou Springs, Monument, and Palmer Lake. The District is able to serve such a large number of citizens thanks to an employee base of nearly 475 full-and part-time staff and almost 1,700 volunteers. PPLD’s Board of Trustees consists of seven members from the community. The citizen volunteers are appointed jointly by the Colorado Springs City Council and El Paso County Commissioners for a maximum of two five-year terms.
The District currently operates 16 facilities throughout the county. In addition to the large collections of physical and digital materials that are available, a number of sites also feature state-of-the art services, such as makerspaces and studios. PPLD’s makerspaces offer access to tools, materials, and machines to help bring patrons’ creative visions to life. Equipment such as 3D printers; laser engraving and cutting machines; and assorted handicraft and art tools are all available for use. In the District’s studios, Library cardholders have access to items such as cameras, audio mixers, and even a green screen to produce professional-grade recordings. Moreover, the District operates a three-vehicle mobile fleet that delivers Library services to more rural and remote areas as well as to communities for individuals who have limited mobility.
The District has also established a number of strategic partnerships to help serve their local community. For example, the new Pikes Peak Culture Pass program allows patrons to explore museums and attractions in the Pikes Peak region at no cost. By collaborating with local organizations, PPLD provides free admission passes for check out, increasing opportunities for education and cultural learning. In addition, the District has expanded its adult learning programs in recent years. Career Online High School is an online high school diploma and career certification program provided by PPLD. Students can choose a major from a list of high-growth, high-demand career fields and complete coursework to develop the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for. The District also offers English as a Second Language classes and food industry training.
In 2018, in partnership with The Place (formerly Urban Peak Colorado Springs), the District launched a first-of-its-kind initiative in Colorado aimed at helping teen runaways and youth experiencing homelessness. The partnership resulted in PPLD locations becoming a part of the National Safe Place Network. As a part of this network, an at-risk youth can enter the library and ask for help. From there, the library staff can contact The Place who will then arrive and begin to find the appropriate assistance.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the District transformed its library services to expand access beyond the traditional use of libraries. PPLD launched a number of virtual programs and began offering curbside services. When the pandemic first began and there was concern over a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), the District became involved with a group called Make4COVID, whose wide network of members worked together to 3D print PPE. As part of the effort, PPLD distributed several of its larger 3D printers to makers in the community who were then able to make face shield parts in the safety of their own homes. The District staff also used sewing machines and smaller 3D printers to assist in this vital work.
For nearly 60 years, Pikes Peak Library District has welcomed all members of their local community to enrich their minds, make connections, and reach their full potential. Through innovative initiatives and programming, resourcefulness, and responsiveness to the needs of their patrons, the District is truly living its mission to provide library resources and services that impact lives and build community across El Paso County.