Denver, CO

Blair-Caldwell African American library closing for facelift after 20 years

David Heitz

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The Blair-Caldwell LIbrary will host a renovated reading room.City and County of Denver

Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Denver's Five Points neighborhood will get a $2.6 million makeover.

Interlock Construction Company of Denver won a contract for the work at Monday's City Council meeting. The contractor will update staff and customer areas on the first and second floors. The work also will include updates to the heating and cooling system.

The library, 2401 Welton St., will close May 28 for renovations. The showcase of the first floor will be a new teen area, according to Joe Gosalvez, communications specialist for the Denver Public Library. There also will be art by Sam McNeils of Superior Ironworks+, who welds his iron creations.

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Artist Sam McNeils.City and County of Denver/Sam McNeils

Additional updates to meet customer requests include:

· A reimagined children's area

· New first-floor staff workroom

· New front book drop and relocation of the circulation desk.

Visitors can expect refreshed bathrooms and an enhanced surveillance system, too. Line of sight on the first floor will include all service points, Gosalvez said.

Clients will have access to computers and mobile phones at the library. It will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The library is known for its extensive resources related to African American history in Denver and the West. "On the second floor, Collection Archives and Research Library will only see some renovation in the staffing areas," Gosalvez said. The Western Legacies Museum and Charlie R. Cousins Gallery will remain the same on the third floor.

Second, third floors closed

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The renovated Blair-Caldwell Library will have plenty of meeting space.City and County of Denver

The second and third floors of the library closed April 20 for renovations. The archives and book collection on the second floor moved to the Central Library, in the special collections reading room.

The library hosted more than 102,000 visitors in 2019, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Patrons checked out more than 59,000 items that year and conducted more than 41,000 computer sessions.

How the library got its name

The Denver Public Library Commission named the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library. Former Mayor Wellington Webb and First Lady Wilma Webb proposed the name, saluting Omar Blair, the first Black president of the Denver school board, and Elvin Caldwell, the first Black City Council member.

"Omar Blair and Elvin Caldwell made major contributions to our community and are fitting namesakes for this unique addition to the Library system," said Landri C. Taylor, Denver Public Library Commission, on the library's website. "We unanimously approved the proposed name for the Library because Blair and Caldwell are prominent African Americans who have given of their time and talents to bring about significant change in Denver and the West."

The 35,000-square-foot library opened in 2003.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career at local newspapers. Today, I report on Denver and Aurora city halls for NewsBreak. Prior to joining NewsBreak, I worked several years as a health reporter and branded content writer in the healthcare space. I also worked many years as a news editor and city editor. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver.

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