- Associated Press - Saturday, March 4, 2017

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) - Donny Morales didn’t consider himself a regular library user.

He hadn’t checked out a book in three years, and only dropped in to use the Internet when there was something wrong with his own connection.

But since November, he’s spent more than 100 hours at the Mesa County Public Library in Colorado - and that’s all because of the new 970West Studio.

In its first year of existence, the studio fostered the creation of music, art and videos and helped preserve history.

Morales and his band, Snootch, which has produced an entire album using the space, are just a few of the artists who have benefited from using the facility.

The library constructed the $1.35 million studio to bring 21st century library services to patrons, something beyond physical books and multimedia they could check out and return after using. For the first time, the library created a place where others could build their own, local resources for themselves and others to enjoy.

Studio Coordinator Adam Lopez has seen everything from businesses making promotional videos to teenagers recording hip hop albums in what he calls the “digital maker space.” The interests of the 380 patrons who completed orientation in 2016 ran the gamut.

The philosophy of 970West reaches back almost a decade, when Library Director Joseph Sanchez combined his experience with the recording industry with ideas for building a social archive - one in which the users contributed their own creations instead of accessing only content that was promoted through commercial means, such as record labels.

Sanchez’s mantra has been “educate, create, curate,” and that’s the focus of the studio. Classes are offered to users to learn to create their own material, which can be added to a digital archive that offers a local selection of music, art and video. Anything produced at 970West can become part of that archive available to all patrons, though the creators retain the rights.

For Sanchez, it’s about fulfilling the library’s mission to serve the community as needs evolve in this ever-digital era, and he’s found that the studio and its archive helps communicate that it’s not just big-name artists that have value to their work. For centuries, libraries have been repositories of valuable information and artifacts, and he sees 970West as a way to preserve local treasures.

“We can connect you not only to Van Gogh but to Ron Henry, a local artist,” he said. “You can hear music from a local band, not just from Taylor Swift. It says, ‘My content has value too.’”

The demand for the studio has increased, evidenced by reservations recently doubling, according to library spokesman Bob Kretschman. Although interest has been from all age groups, Sanchez said the studio has helped the library become more relevant to younger patrons, especially those in their 20s and 30s like Morales, and helped the library’s brand evolve.

“It has been a very powerful and deliberate target for us,” he said.

For Morales, the studio emphasized that libraries are still the centers of their communities and that this one has evolved to meet his passions and needs.

“The library now is not just a place where you go to see something amazing or check something out,” he said. “You can go to this library and create something amazing.”

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Information from: The Daily Sentinel, https://www.gjsentinel.com


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