The Garfield County Public Library was established in 1938 as a Works Progress Administration project at New Castle, Colorado. When WPA was discontinued, the Garfield County Commissioners agreed to take over sponsorship and finance it from the county's general fund.
A library board of four members was appointed and served for several years. It was succeeded by a new board of six members, chosen with the approval of the commissioners from three areas of the county. Their tenure was staggered. The county superintendent of schools was an ex-officio member. Mrs. Harriett Stewart was the first librarian and was very efficient in organizing the library.
The library was originally located in the New Castle school building. New Castle was the most centrally located town in the county, and the quarters in the school were rent-free. The library served the entire county, both rural and urban areas, as well as all of the school districts. Many enthusiastic patrons from all over the county not only used the full resources of the library, but were always ready to say a good word for it. The collection originally consisted of around 14,000 books and had a yearly circulation of 75,000. The bookstock was augmented by generous loans from the Colorado State Library.
In 1964, the Carbondale City Library became the first branch of the county library system. In 1968, the New Castle Branch's current building was erected as the main library of the system. The Glenwood Springs City Library became a branch of the county library system in 1969, followed by Rifle in 1976 and Silt in 1980. In 1984, a new library was built in Carbondale. Carbondale's library is named the Gordon Cooper Branch in honor of a NASA astronaut with ties to the area. In 1982, the library in Parachute became the final branch of the county library system.
County voters approved a ½ cent sales tax in 1982 which enabled construction to start on 4 of the 6 county libraries between 1982 and 1983. The Rifle Public Library was dedicated on June 2, 1984, with the “Roosevelt Window” forming a wall that separated the library lobby and the Colorado Room. The Roosevelt Window was originally commissioned in 1905 for $105 in Rifle’s new Christian church in commemoration of the one day on which the president was an honored member of their congregation. A fund drive was launched in 1980 when the window was offered for sale. It was purchased by the Heritage Windows Trust (a citizen group) for $35,000. This amount was raised in Rifle, a community with an adult population of around 2,000 at the time, in three and a half months. The Roosevelt Window was recently restored by Associated Crafts in Arizona and reinstalled into the new Rifle Branch Library.
In 2006, the voters approved a one mill levy for construction and improvements to all six library buildings. The voters also approved the creation of the Garfield County Public Library District (GCPLD) which is separate from Garfield County. We got right to work and began our first projects in Rifle and Parachute in late 2008. Construction on the new Rifle Branch Library began in October 2009, and the new 30,000 square foot building opened on November 20, 2010. The new library features not only more room for library materials, but also a community room, administrative offices for the entire Library District, and a civic plaza in partnership with the City of Rifle. The restored Roosevelt Window is on the second floor of the building. The Parachute Branch Library added over 4000 square feet through an expansion and remodel of its current facility which opened on September 11, 2010. The branch library in New Castle is currently under construction with an opening date of March of 2012. New library facilities are in the planning stages for Glenwood Springs, Silt and Carbondale, and all projects should be complete by the end of 2013.
Today, GCPLD has over 180,000 items in the six libraries. There are books, magazines, music CDs, newspapers, as well as downloadable e-books and audio books on CD, MP3, and Playaway available to the public. Each branch has public-use computers with internet access. The Library District has a website which contains numerous databases; patrons have free access to the databases both in the library or at home using their library card number.
The GCPLD hosts programs for patrons of all ages throughout the year. There are weekly story time programs at all branches, craft classes, community reading projects such as “One Book, One Town” and “The Big Read,” computer classes, and Summer Reading Programs for children, teens, and adults.