Ross-Barnum Branch Library Bond Information


Address: 3570 West 1st AvenueRoss-Barnum Branch Library exterior
Year opened: 1954
Last renovation: 1994
Square footage: 10,500 sq. ft.
Area population: 23,796
2016 visits: 78,792
2016 circulation: 124,911
2016 program attendance: 6,857
Status: Agency Critical System Need

Renovation project includes:

  • Making the basement accessible with elevator installation and life safety improvements; addressing exterior with landscaping, sidewalk, exterior lighting signage, and repairing the facade
  • Exploring redesign of entrances
  • Improving HVAC systems life safety system, surveillance and access control, electrical, IT, communication systems, and ADA compliance
  • Updating interior spaces with new finishes, furniture, and fixtures restrooms

Designer: Studiotrope Design Collective
General Contractor: PCL Construction

Project Goals

  • Address critical system needs, including surveillance and access control, electrical, data and power systems
  • Create new spaces for learning, making, creating, meeting and collaborating
  • Connect non-English speaking residents with materials, services and spaces that foster community building
  • Neighborhood needs experiential space to keep youth engaged and learning while not in school or work


The original Barnum Branch Library first set up shop in a firehouse. The Rocky Mountain News reported in 1919 that “through the courtesy of Dewey C. Bailey, Manager of Safety, the firehouse of Engine #20, located at Knox Court and West Sixth Avenue has become a neighborhood center.” Organized by librarian Florence Briber, the firefighters themselves helped in setting up the shelves and shelving the books, and apparently the branch operated together with the working fire station, providing the workers plenty of reading material in their down time, with the occasional fire alarm shattering the studious quiet of the stacks.

Today, the Ross-Barnum Branch Library is located at 3570 W. First Ave. and was opened in 1954 and designed by Smith and Hegner Architects. It was the second of four libraries funded by the Frederick R. Ross Trust. A major renovation in 1973 by Saul and Associates relocated the library’s main entrance from the north to the east side. A 1994 renovation by Pouw & Associates added on to the children’s area and meeting space to the south. The library floor is a structural concrete slab over a sizable basement, which has limited use due to accessibility and building code issues.

Two community mural project public artworks led by artist Barry Rose can be found at Ross-Barnum. Outside the main entrance the Personal Icons bronze tile mural (1992) and inside the At the Circus ceramic tile mural (1997).

The branch serves a diverse service area with Spanish and Vietnamese speakers as a large percentage of customers. Families represent a large segment of their customers. The branch’s collection reflects the neighborhood’s diversity and works hard to ensure access to materials and programs for these customers.

Community Input

The Ross-Barnum community conversation was held in July 2016 and gathered 10 local residents and library staff members. Conversations were conducted in English and translated into Spanish as needed.

Barnum residents want a clean, green and safe community. Major concerns include the health and wellness of the neighborhood, traffic safety, graffiti, access to fresh food and a lack of educational resources for adults and children. Neighbors would like to see a focus on neighborhood cleanup and the creation of green spaces for outdoor recreation. Car cruising on Federal Boulevard creates both noise and traffic disruption. Attendees believe that the City is focusing on bringing new people into the neighborhood rather than serving those who already live in the Barnum area.

A library-administered written survey collected information specific to the branch. Customers give the staff high marks but find the physical atmosphere of the building unwelcoming. Customers specifically asked for a branch renovation that feels as fresh and nice as the new Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library in West Denver.

The Plan (what needs to be done)

  • Address site issues including exterior lighting, landscaping and sidewalks.
  • Repave the parking lots.
  • Explore redesign of entrances.
  • Explore activating the basement.
  • Improve heating, ventilation, air conditioning and temperature controls and reduce air noise.
  • Update and refresh restroom partitions, lighting, vanity counters and flooring.
  • Meet current fire alarm codes.
  • Install surveillance and access control.
  • Update the main electrical distribution and branch circuit panels.
  • Improve data, power and communication systems.
  • Update ambient lighting.
  • Explore opportunities to relocate exterior book return.
  • Redesign the service point for current technology and service models (remove soffit and ceiling above).
  • Create views into the community room from the entrance corridor.
  • Update (and/or relocate) the community room with lighting, power, data, technology and service counter.
  • Explore new arrangements for flexible learning spaces.
  • Refresh the entire children’s area.
  • Explore existing material shelving arrangement to obtain optimum customer use and convenience.
  • Explore new arrangements for flexible learning spaces.
  • Redesign staff workroom, breakroom and office for better efficiency and lighting.
  • Explore new arrangements for public access computers and 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 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. The design approach will maintain the architectural integrity of the existing branch.

Current State

The last major renovation of the facility occurred in the early 1990s and the interior shows wear and tear with 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 tall shelving housing large circulating collections, furniture for reading and study and large service desks designed for staff tasks related to receiving and checking out materials. Community space and equipment is conducive primarily for presentations and group meeting purposes. Staff workspaces are not arranged efficiently, not ergonomically designed and do not take into consideration space for new staff resulting from increased hours in the last several years.

Public and staff restrooms are not accessibility compliant, do not 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 to be upgraded. 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. Landscaping, parking lot and sidewalk issues have not been addressed with annual maintenance funds. Exterior brick facade needs to be restored.

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 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, window replaced and site issues are improved. The square footage is increased by making the basement accessible for future programming and staff space.

Project Risks

Without a renovation and activating the basement 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. Due to the age of the building, the library should be prepared to encounter lead based paint and asbestos containing materials. There may be an opportunity to improve storm water runoff at the site.

Risk Management

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


Design: $153,863
Land Acquisition: $0
Construction: $1,346,432
Contingency: $43,220
Total: $1,543,515

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