Pauline Robinson Branch Library Bond Updates

Learn more about our plans for services in the community during the closure.


Address: 5575 East 33rd Avenue
Year opened: 1995
Last renovation: 2004
Square footage: 5,285 sq. ft.
Area population: 10,151
2016 visits: 70,130
2016 circulation: 69,662
2016 program attendance: 7,360
Status: Agency Critical System Need

Pauline Robinson Branch Library exterior

Renovation Construction Includes: 

  • Increase square footage with an addition to improve the existing restrooms, book drop, community room, staff spaces, youth spaces, flexible learning areas, and shelving
  • Exterior improvements including: landscaping, sidewalks, exterior lighting, parking lot, facade restoration; building system updates to HVAC, electrical, IT, communications, lighting, surveillance, access controls, and life safety
  • Provide new interior finishes, furniture, fixtures, and signage

Architecture Firm: Anderson Hallas Architects
General Contractor: Interlock Construction

Project Goals

  • Increase square footage to reduce crowding and create spaces for learning, making, creating, meeting and collaborating
  • Neighborhood needs safe, experiential spaces to keep youth engaged and learning while not in school or work and to help foster increased literacy levels
  • Address major building components to care for and protect this 22-year-old facility


At the 1995 dedication of the library branch named for her, Pauline Robinson said, “Of all the honors, the truest satisfaction that I’ve received throughout my career has been encouraging young people to continue their education and to prepare for their lifelong goals.” Robinson was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the University of Denver’s library school and became the Denver Public Library’s first African-American librarian. She retired in 1979 as coordinator of Children’s Services.

Today, Robinson’s legacy lives on as the branch serves an important role in the community, acting as both a library and community hub. Children and adults alike visit the library to study, access materials, use technology and meet with one another. The branch works closely with the Boys and Girls Club across the parking lot to ensure children have a safe and welcoming environment during out-of-school hours.

The branch serves a diverse urban service area. The service area is dominated by families with children and ages ranging from toddler to high school. The branch’s collection and programs reflect the interests and needs of the diverse neighborhood.

Community Input

Two community conversations were held in the Pauline Robinson Branch Library neighborhood. In May 2016, five residents met with the artistic director of PlatteForum and several library staff members to discuss aspirations and concerns for the community with a specific eye toward the 303 Artway walking path project. The library hosted another community conversation in July, which brought 12 local residents in for community discussions.

Neighbors are concerned about jobs and youth engagement and desperately desire a walkable neighborhood. Attendees shared a desire for more “eyes on the street” due to an increase in gang activity. Other concerns include the need for higher wages and resources to provide safe spaces for youth. Residents believe that local organizations are not effectively communicating their services or coordinating with one another. Currently, the library closes on its evening shifts one hour earlier than other branch locations to help young people get to their homes earlier and avoid being out after dark.

The Plan (what needs to be done)

  • Increase square footage with an addition.
  • Address site issues including landscaping, sidewalks and exterior lighting.
  • Repave and repair the parking lot.
  • Replace the main air handling units.
  • Improve heating, ventilation, air conditioning and temperature controls.
  • Repair and restore existing facade.
  • Redesign and/or relocate existing exterior book drop.
  • Update and improve existing exterior lighting.
  • Redesign and install exterior book return.
  • Update and refresh restroom partitions, lighting, vanity counters and flooring.  
  • Add a staff restroom.
  • Meet current fire alarm codes.
  • Install surveillance and access control.
  • Update the main electrical distribution and branch circuit panel.
  • Improve data, power and communication systems.
  • Update ambient lighting.
  • Explore new arrangements for flexible learning spaces.
  • Redesign the service point for current technology and service models.
  • Update the small conference room with lighting, power, data, technology and service counter.
  • Refresh the entire children’s area.
  • Explore existing material shelving arrangement to obtain optimum customer use and convenience.
  • Redesign staff workroom, breakroom and office for better efficiency and lighting.
  • Explore new arrangements for public access computers and access for mobile device use.
  • Provide new interior finishes including paint, carpet, tile and ceilings.
  • Provide new interior furniture and fixtures.
  • Comply with current accessibility requirements.
  • Provide new wayfinding, digital signage and code-required signs.
  • Upgrade or create an IT data and telecommunications closet.

A key component of a successful modern library requires creative design approaches for individuals and groups to learn, make and create. Changes in customer usage, technological advances and functionality also necessitate a renovation and addition. The design approach will maintain the architectural integrity of the existing branch.

Current State

Pauline Robinson Branch Library was constructed in 1995 and the interior shows wear and tear from over 20 years of high use. The interior was designed for library usage patterns popular a few decades ago. Most of the floor space is dedicated to fixed shelving housing circulating collections, furniture for reading and study and large service desks designed for staff tasks related to receiving and checking out materials. A small conference room space is conducive for only small classes and group meeting purposes. Staff workspaces are not arranged efficiently, not ergonomically designed and do not take into consideration space for additional staff resulting from increased hours in the last several years. Public restrooms are not accessibility compliant, don’t address gender neutral accommodations and need refreshing. Some of the building systems and components are outdated including electrical, lighting, telecommunications, mechanical, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Security and card access systems need upgrading. Data, power and furniture are lacking for access to high speed broadband available for customers to connect to the internet using their mobile devices and public access computers. Compliance with current accessibility, building code and sustainability requirements are an issue. Facility square footage is too small for service area population demand for services. Landscaping, parking lot and sidewalk issues have not been addressed with current annual maintenance funds. The brick facade needs to be restored.

The library is a stakeholder in the Holly Area Redevelopment Project (HARP) which seeks to revitalize the six-block area around the former shopping center. The library addition and renovation will add to the imaging and reinvestment happening in the surrounding community.

Future State

The role of a modern branch library has shifted to be an active community space. Floor plans are reconfigured shrinking shelving and increasing space for learning, making, creating, meeting and collaborating. Self-service options for checking out and ordering materials are conveniently located near staff service desks. The children’s area has a literacy packed play space where parents and staff work together to prepare young children to learn and read.

A DIY lab space where all ages can gather to create, invent, and learn with equipment, software, electronics, craft supplies, tools and more is available. Easy, quick access to the internet is available throughout the library. Community and conference rooms are transformed into flexible multi-function spaces with the power, data, technology and sound systems to support out-of-school learning, adult classes, meetings, collaboration, cultural programming and community events. Staff workspaces are larger and efficiently organized. Public and staff restrooms are refreshed and meet access requirements.

The facility is a safer place for customers and staff. Building systems and components are new and improved. All accessibility, building code and sustainability requirements are in compliance. Exterior facade is restored and site issues are improved. The square footage is increased with an addition.

Project Risks

Without a renovation and addition, adequate services to meet community demand and impacts on out-of-school learning to address low third grade reading and high school graduation rates will be compromised.

Risk Management

Partnering with Denver Environmental Health, Public Works and design professionals, specific testing of building components will occur at early stages.

Back to Elevate Denver Bond Program overview page