Western History & Genealogy Blog

Brand-New Central Computer Center


Have you visited the busy new computer center on the fourth floor of the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library? Computers in libraries did not happen by chance. Forty years of effort by determined Colorado librarians led to the computers now available to the public.

The first library computers operated behind the scenes. Funding from the Colorado State Legislature helped create databases of library holdings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The data was originally used primarily for cataloging and for inter-library loan. As the databases grew, uses of the information expanded, though the hardware was often complicated and bulky. Mini-computers, micro-computers, on-line catalogs, modems and dial-in capabilities resulted in statewide networking by the 1980s. Colorado librarians worked to provide the public access to computers. Some people's first uses of computers were in libraries.

By the 1990s, Computers became more powerful. Again, funding from the Colorado State legislature helped institutions to train staff and the public in using the machines. Networks expanded with systems such as ACCESS COLORADO and MARMOT merging. Subject searching of databases became more sophisticated. The world-wide web began to explode.

Though 2004 marked the end of Colorado State legislature funding, it did not mark the end of the growth and popularity of technology in Colorado libraries as demonstrated by the queues outside of Denver libraries at opening time with patrons eager to be first in line to use a computer.

The papers of the Colorado Library Consortium (WH1960) provide access to details of the history of computers in libraries in Colorado. The collection is available for research on the fifth floor of the Denver

Okay, I wasn't exactly

Okay, I wasn't exactly accurate. I just spent 20 minutes or so with a docent that's worked in the "computer lab" for 15+ years. There were never typewriters in the lab; however, there were Microsoft-only PCs, and jobseekers were allowed Internet access upon request. Before THAT, the computers were only used for class visits from area schools! So interesting!

Thanks for posting this

Thanks for posting this history of computers in Colorado's libraries! It has been, and will be, a long road to continue to meet the access needs of our patrons. The Community Technology Center at Denver Public Library's Central location began as a word processing center -- complete with typewriters! Then it evolved into a docent-run computer lab, which had limited hours of operation and 18 computers. Now we're providing internet access via 74 public computers, with 20 more to come. Much of the CTC's current expansion relies on funding from the BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunity Program). For more information, explore the Colorado State Library's "Bridging Colorado's Digital Divide" webpage! http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdelib/BTOP/