The Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library, located at the corner of Colfax and Irving in West Denver, is not easy to miss. The 27,000 square foot building is as large as it is colorful, and designed to incorporate a variety of shapes. Built in 2014 with the surrounding diverse community in mind, the West Denver branch of Denver’s Public Library is far from traditional. Gone are the days of going to the library solely for the purpose of checking out a new book or researching a topic for a school assignment. Libraries today are a resource for so much more!

The Corky Gonzales Library is one of Denver’s newest libraries, which was made possible by a 2007 vote that supported the funding of three new libraries in metro Denver.  Urban Land Conservancy played a pivotal role in the reality of a West Denver Library after purchasing a 2-acre parcel using Denver’s Transit Oriented Development (TOD) fund to be used for a mixed-use affordable housing development, a commercial building and a community library. After opening in 2015, the Corky Gonzales Library was immediately welcomed by the community, as residents wanted a close and easily accessible library to utilize.

I recently met with Nicanor Diaz and Ed Ye Kiang of the Corky Gonzales branch to learn more about the pivotal role their library has played in West Denver.  According to Ye Kiang, there was not a library of this size in the area, and because of community demand, the branch eventually opened for an additional day each week. He explained that while the branch was previously closed each Sunday, today a line forms as local residents wait for the doors to open.

The Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales Library in West Denver.
The Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales Library in West Denver.

The Corky Gonzales Library is now one of Denver Public Library’s largest branches, with over 25 employees and well over 130,000 visitors each year. Ye Kiang said that the branch has seen continuous success, with their programming alone growing over 100% each year.

The library’s rapid growth and community support is due to the staff’s adaptability, programming and vast list of resources. Diaz explained that because Corky Gonzales is located in a diverse neighborhood with a variety of cultures, their staff is fluent in 12 languages to better serve the surrounding community. They take their role as the corner stone to the Colfax neighborhood very seriously, aiming to provide the best services and resources possible.

Two specific programs caught my attention during our meeting, both of which provide invaluable resources to public library members. The Plaza Program provides services to new immigrants, such as English conversation classes, arts and crafts and answers to specific inquiries. The library also has a dedicated full time certified financial wellness coach through the HOPE Inside Denver program. The financial coach meets with customers to assist them in financial related matters such as improving their credit score, creating a budget and better understanding the loan process.

The second floor hosts a computer lab which provides internet and other computer related services to library members.
The second floor hosts a computer lab which provides internet and other computer related services to library members.

It is programs like these – and more – that keep community members engaged with their local public library. Diaz discussed a list of new age library services such as eBooks and audio books that can be played directly from a cellphone, language learning services and even music playlists curated by librarians to help support local Denver artists. This doesn’t include the fact that libraries now rent out movies, DVDs, CDs, magazines and podcasts. I also learned that you can reserve a backpack from the Corky Gonzales library that is filled with maps, guides, binoculars and free entry tickets into any Colorado State Park.

“I just don’t think people really understand what libraries are these days,” Diaz said. “Just stop by and you might be surprised what you will find!”

It is very clear that libraries like the Corky Gonzales branch are evolving with the times and keeping up with community needs. Ye Kiang, who is the Senior Librarian at the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library has very clear plans to keep his library ahead of the curve when it comes to programming and technology. While his branch already has a music recording studio, he is hoping to open an “idea lab” in the future as well. These labs offer computers, 3D printers, STEM programming, video game programming and other similar services for library members.

ULC is very proud to see that our partner, the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library, has become such a strong community asset for residents. If you have yet to visit your local library, do so today! Signing up for a library card is easier than buying a cup of coffee (and less expensive) and the benefits that come from both visiting and supporting your local library are seemingly endless. For more information on a Denver Public Library Branch near you – you can visit their website here.

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