Miller feels at home with PPLD, city

DSC_2913When she first graduated from college, Paula Miller wanted to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology. But a love of libraries led her down a different path.

She’s been executive director of the Pikes Peak Library District for more than seven years, and before that worked in Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Kent State University and decided against taking that further.

“I considered a master’s degree in clinical psychology, but had worked in libraries to earn money to pay for college — and loved the combination of left-brain/right-brain skills required, as well as the rewarding work of serving the public,” she said.

She moved here from the Cleveland area, and grew up primarily in northeast Ohio. Now she calls the Springs home.

“The beauty of this area is simultaneously stunning and peaceful — perfect for an artist [her husband] and an occasional poet [herself],” she said.

Miller recently answered a few questions about PPLD.


Tell us a little more about PPLD. How big is it?

Pikes Peak Library District is the second-largest library system in Colorado and regularly places in the top tier of national rankings. PPLD serves a 2,000-square-mile service area, including Colorado Springs and almost all of El Paso County. We serve more than 600,000 residents, who borrow nearly 9 million items a year, through 14 staffed facilities, one Library Express site, three mobile vehicles, and a robust virtual presence ( Our facilities range from a small presence in Palmer Lake and Ute Pass, to the larger East and Penrose libraries. We most recently added Manitou Springs, as residents there passed a November 2012 ballot issue to join the library district. We increased technology infrastructure, added operating hours and started daily deliveries there earlier this year.

We also recently initiated the “Tri-Building Project,” probably the most significant initiative for the district in many years. The project includes three major renovations — a recently purchased facility on Colorado Springs’ north side, East Library (on Union), and Penrose Library (downtown). The new facility will be a destination and experience library, unlike any other currently in the district. This innovative building will be our model for the “21st Century Library,” and will include a business and entrepreneurship center, two maker spaces, a small event center, a 400-seat meeting and performance space, a public video and audio recording studio, multiple conference spaces, a café and a print services center. Our goal is to establish the “21st Century Library” model at this new facility, then replicate some of those services and features at Penrose and East, and then create smaller-scale versions of the most feasible/popular services and features in our community libraries.


How is PPLD meeting demands for new and better technology and new ways of reading books?

It is so exhilarating to be working in libraries today, as there has never been a period of greater change in public libraries than right now. Our district, while continuing to provide traditional materials and services, has really ramped up our electronic presence, and borrowing of e-books from PPLD has risen more than 50 percent this past year. Through our website, users can download e-books and e-audiobooks to their e-readers, iPads, computers and mobile devices. In the past few years, we have been hampered somewhat in what we could offer, due to prohibitive pricing and limited availability from the six largest publishers in the country, but this last year has seen some great improvements in publishers’ pricing and policies for public libraries. Our users can look forward to downloadable titles from more of their favorite authors this fall.

The 4 million hits to our website annually include accessing other formats as well — PPLD cardholders download songs to their iPods or other music devices, stream videos, access information from databases, or take online classes remotely.

PPLD has also increased the number of public computers available district-wide, increased bandwidth and wi-fi access, and was among the first libraries in the state to initiate laptop and e-reader loans. I think many people don’t realize how important PPLD is to bridging the digital divide for those who cannot afford computers or Internet connections in their homes.


What does the future look like for PPLD?

Libraries nationwide are going through a massive transformation, as a result of changes in information technology and publishing. Some interpret those trends to indicate a diminishing need for public libraries. To the contrary, in today’s complex, information-saturated and knowledge-driven world, the need for libraries has never been greater.

There has never been a period of greater change in public libraries than right now.”

In the near future, PPLD users will come to their libraries not just to check out materials, but to create, using library resources, a self-published book, a digital photo scrapbook, a film, a new product to market to others, for example. Residents and groups will continue to come to PPLD to learn, but learning will be delivered in more than just traditional classroom-style formats — joining in remotely, conferencing with an instructor/speaker, and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Families, businesses and organizations will use the library as an intergenerational social hub — a gracious community space in which they can convene, connect, and collaborate.


How does PPLD interact with the business scene?

Our business librarian of many years, Terry Zarsky, is well known in the business community, and she and our other librarians are available to speak to groups and to help startups and businesses utilize the planning resources such as the Business Decision database that we have purchased. The Library District is an active member of the area Chambers of Commerce and of the Business Alliance, giving our managers opportunities to meet many business owners and staff, and to become aware of current business issues and future trends. Many community forums are held in our meeting facilities. … We communicate and collaborate with organizations and businesses here to increase learning and literacy in our region.

I hope that businesses and entrepreneurs will also particularly seek out the many new business-focused spaces and services in our “21st Century Library” when it opens in mid-2014, including conference rooms, videoconferencing capacity, “hoteling” spaces, maker spaces, a PC training lab and networking nooks, to name a few. Groundbreaking is scheduled for Nov. 1; attendees will get a glimpse of the plans for this new-age library space. Watch for our “(Construction) Orange and Black Tie” event.