Last fall, the Paonia Library received two backpacks from the Colorado State Library. These packs contained such contents as binoculars, wildlife guides, Colorado State Parks information, and, most beneficial to local residents, passes to Colorado State Parks. These passes were offered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as a way to promote the incredible outdoor opportunities available throughout Colorado. Paonia Library was one of only eight libraries selected around the state to experiment with the pilot program, officially called CheckOutColorado.
Despite a wet and snowy season that may have limited use of state parks, the winter pilot was successful and public feedback was excellent. Because of this, the Colorado State Library and Colorado Parks and Wildlife decided to extend the CheckOutColorado program to every public library in Colorado, as well as a number of other participating institutions, for a total of 287 locations.
This means that all Delta County libraries will be able to offer backpacks containing state parks passes starting on the statewide launch date of June 20. Patrons will be able to visit a Delta County library and check out one of the backpacks for a week, free of charge, giving users full access to any of the 42 state parks in Colorado, as well as binoculars and informational materials. Backpacks will be offered on a first come, first served basis and will need to be returned to the library from which they came.
District director Lea Hart says, "We are so excited we can offer this at all our libraries now. Delta County residents have access to numerous state parks within a short drive, so this will be wonderful for everyone."
In return for the incredible outdoor access, participating organizations simply request the completion of a small evaluation form. Assistant district director LaDonna Gunn explains, "I can't stress enough how valuable patron feedback is in continuing this program in future years. If you have a great experience using the backpack at a state park, please fill out the evaluation form and tell us how much you enjoyed it."
Gunn continues, "Suggestions for improvements are welcome as well. We want to ensure that our libraries are meeting community needs, and all feedback is helpful."
The libraries are offering many other ways to enjoy the outdoors this summer, some of which work in conjunction with the CheckOutColorado backpacks. Explorers of all ages can check out small kits pairing informational books with items such as flower presses, bike repair tools, and binoculars. GoPro cameras and iPads can be checked out to record adventures. A variety of events that focus on wilderness safety and health and fitness will be taking place over the next couple of months. The Seed Library is still growing successfully for those patrons who have not yet completed their gardens. And, of course, library shelves abound with all kinds of books on various outdoor themes, from travel guides to adventure fiction to picture books.
In the past, libraries may not have always been the first place to come to mind when preparing for an outdoor experience; however, if staff members have their way, soon Delta County Libraries will be at the top of the list, right above the picnic blanket.