Our View: Bravo, Chris Painter | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Bravo, Chris Painter

When anyone visits Bud Werner Memorial Library, they can pick up a bumper sticker that says, “Came for the skiing, stayed for the library,” and for many of us in Steamboat Springs, that is a true statement that we proudly display on the back of our vehicles. The library is a community hub, offering free access to a world of reading and learning, and a place where people can study, enjoy an educational talk or program, log onto the internet or just take a break in a quiet space during a hectic day.

For over three decades, our local library has been guided by Library Director Chris Painter, who devoted herself to ensuring Steamboat Springs has a library that matches its world-class ski mountain. And in honor of her retirement at the end of June, we pay tribute to Painter’s leadership, vision and commitment to her staff and the community as a whole.

During her 37-year tenure, Painter has amassed a long list of accomplishments. Near the top is her oversight of a major building project that tripled the library’s size and transformed it into the impressive public building it is today — a structure that anchors Lincoln Avenue on the west side of town and carries the name of one of Steamboat’s most legendary ski heroes. The library’s architecture makes it a landmark, and tourists have been known to include a visit to the library on their itineraries, because of its reputation as one of Steamboat’s gems.

The building project first required Painter and the library board of directors to convince voters to support a $11.4 million bond issue to fund a massive 21,000 expansion. The larger, two-story library provided space for a dedicated and interactive children’s area, more public computer access and room for more robust programming in a renovated Library Hall.

Painter also worked hard to recruit and retain a talented and dedicated staff. She is credited with convincing the board of trustees to offer scholarships to worthy department heads, who were willing to earn their master’s degree in library science and promised to work for at least two years longer at the local library. This was Painter’s way of nurturing talent and retaining staff.

Painter also never wavered from her philosophy that the library must respond and reinvent itself to meet the changing needs of the community and its library users. She embraced the latest technology, and under her watch, the library’s collection now consists of 990,000 volumes, which include traditional books, e-books, downloadable audio books, films and magazines.

At a glance

At issue: Chris Painter has retired after a 37-year run as director of the Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs.

Our View: As a visionary and dedicated community leader, Painter deserves praise and appreciation for a job well done.

Editorial Board

• Logan Molen, publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Marion Kahn, community representative

• Laraine Martin, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

The library has also become a gathering place with a calendar jampacked with innovative and interesting programs and events, including author talks, film screenings, mandala making, ukulele jam sessions, panel discussions and more. And Painter is among the founders of Literary Sojourn, a wildly popular annual celebration of reading that brings critically-acclaimed authors to Steamboat and attracts a sellout crowd from across the state.

A few years ago, in a Steamboat Pilot & Today article marking Painter’s 35th anniversary as library director, longtime library board member Barb Ross offered a very fitting description of Painter’s attributes: “Chris is a rare combination of being a skilled administrator and a thoughtful encourager, a consummate organizer and a creative instigator, a visionary and yet one who is anxious to listen to and support the ideas of her staff and community members.”

Bravo Chris Painter on an outstanding career. You are one of a kind — a quiet and compassionate leader who has nurtured this community and made it better by helping to develop one of the finest libraries in the state of Colorado.

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