PPLD Foundation

PPLD Foundation

From Books to New Beginnings: Using the Library as a Resource to Build a Better Life

As one of the founders of Grey Wolf Resort, a health and wellness agritourism business in Victor, Colorado, award-winning chef and entrepreneur Nathan Dirnberger is just as likely to be found planning menus for gourmet picnics as chasing down a loose rooster.

But among these tasks, and the many others he tackles on a regular basis, there’s one more the Colorado native wraps into his days as well: reading.

“My mom's a librarian, so she always read to me as a kid, and I grew up reading,” says Dirnberger.

As he got older, he says, he went to school to become a chef. Years after graduating, Dirnberger wrote an article for the American Culinary Federation (ACF) on quantum physics and how it connects to a chef’s thoughts becoming a tangible experience. “If you give us a pile of ingredients,” he says, “we think about what we're going to create, and then we apply ourselves — that's the key right there — to turn it into a dish.”

In the ACF story, he says, he made the broader analogy of “encouraging people that they can make changes in their lives” if they apply that same theory.

About six years ago, Dirnberger started applying the theory to his own life outside of the kitchen, and “a big part of that,” he says, “was books.”

Dirnberger began to take advantage of all of the free resources his Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) card could offer, from checking out print copies of books to downloading audio reads through OverDrive — which mom Cynthia Roberts, who has been a PPLD librarian now for almost three decades, introduced to him. Dirnberger was able to dig into and study popular titles by authors like Tim Ferriss, alongside other books about entrepreneurship, marketing, and business.

One in particular, stands out for him, though: David Schwartz’ classic The Magic of Thinking Big, first published in 1959, which Dirnberger listened to during a cross-country trip after finishing an internship on a farm. The book’s push to get people to dare to dream (and put concrete habits behind those dreams) spawned his concept for an agritourism-focused farm and ranch — what would become Grey Wolf Resort.

But books aren’t the only PPLD resources Dirnberger used.

“When I actually started creating my businesses, I would use the library too,” he says, reserving classrooms at Library 21c so he and his business partners could set up projectors and map out plans on whiteboards. “I pretty much started all my businesses there.”

“Tony Robbins talks about how there’s never a lack of resources. There’s a lack of resourcefulness,” Dirnberger says. The Library District is “a resource box,” he adds, “full of tools for people to change their lives … if they apply themselves.”

Currently billed as a “boutique, private, high-altitude health and wellness center” situated on a family farm and ranch, Dirnberger’s two-year-old Grey Wolf Resort offers guests everything from massages and guided mountain hikes to farm-to-table gourmet picnics. And Dirnberger still has lots of big dreams when it comes to the resort, ranging from building a commercial kitchen and a little restaurant on the property to setting an example for those interested in emulating the concept and creating more agritourism across the country.

With his passion for books, one might wonder if Dirnberger has another dream up his sleeve.

“Well, yeah,” he says, “actually, I’ve been writing one for a few years now, but as I started writing, I knew the story still had to be finished. … I needed to be able to do something that was actually worth telling. … I wanted a family. I wanted to be able to spend time with my family, that’s why I wanted to become a farmer, to spend time outside and be with nature, and help out with food and clean water and air, and all the things that people and animals both deserve.”

“Now that I’ve got all of that,” he says, “it’s a matter of starting to tell the story.”

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In these unprecedented times, Pikes Peak Library District is a constant. This year, the need for PPLD’s resources has been greater than ever.

A couple months ago, I was visiting the Old Colorado City Library and met a man named Charlie. The building was still closed to the public at that time due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, but curbside service was available and Charlie was waiting to collect items he had checked out. We got to talking and Charlie told me he was there to check out a WIFI hotspot. Like so many others, Charlie lost his job during the pandemic and without internet he couldn’t apply for jobs. “I don’t have internet at home and everything is online these days. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t get internet through the library.”

As the second largest library system in Colorado, PPLD operates 16 facilities and serves a population of more than 660,000 residents in El Paso County. In 2019, patrons made 3.1 million visits to the library and checked out nearly 8.3 million items. There were more than one million uses of our paid and locally developed databases. We received 50,000+ online meeting room requests and 250,000 people attended a library program.

Mobile Libraries during COVID-19When COVID-19 hit El Paso County in March of this year the impact library closures had on our community was felt immediately. Hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the library for critical resources and services suddenly found PPLD’s doors closed. During the course of weeks and months following the library’s initial closure, PPLD quickly adapted to a new reality, and the accomplishments we have realized while successfully pivoting around a “new normal” have become a model for libraries throughout the country.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PPLD expanded its remote and virtual offerings in a myriad of ways. Our librarians are bringing their services to you, anywhere and anytime. Library patrons can watch a virtual story time with their kids, participate in a virtual book club, or join us for a community movie discussion. Patrons can ask one of our reference librarians questions by phone, live chat, and email. For parents who have suddenly found themselves teachers, we have ample resources for children and teenagers, including homework help, reading help, planning for the future, and more. Patrons can stream and download eBooks, music, and videos from almost anywhere!

All 15 Libraries and three mobile Libraries continue to offer curbside service, making it easy for you to return materials and safely pick up items without having any direct contact with Library staff or other patrons. And, on July 1, Library facilities have re-opened to the public in accordance with public health and safety guidelines.

PPLD participated in several initiatives to address unique community challenges brought about by this pandemic. We have been a part of the statewide Make4Covid movement and worked with makers throughout our region to help in the production of personal protective equipment for the medical community, first responders, and those who need it most. PPLD staff installed public water stations at Penrose Library so any and all can fill containers whenever needed. Staff members also boxed up thousands of books and handed them out at free lunch distribution sites throughout Colorado Springs. So, when people came for a meal, they got a book, too.

PPLD Makerspaces during COVID-19For nearly 60 years, Pikes Peak Library District has stood as a pillar of the community, and we will continue to serve the community in every way we can during this pandemic and beyond. But, none of this is possible without the public’s investment and donors like you. PPLD has felt the economic impacts of the pandemic, and we are now facing a budget shortfall of at least $500,000. Will you support PPLD, and people like Charlie, by donating today? Your charitable gift of $30, $50, $100 or $1,000* will help PPLD be stronger and more prepared to accommodate the changing times and the growing need for our many critical services.

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SDA AwardThere are nearly 3,000 special districts in the state of Colorado, including library districts, park districts, water districts, fire districts, and many others. Every year, one district from those thousands is chosen by the Special District Association of Colorado to receive its highest honor, the J. Evan Goulding District of the Year Award. We are excited to announce that the SDA has chosen Pikes Peak Library District as this year's recipient!


The J. Evan Goulding District of the Year Award was established by the SDA Board of Directors to single out a district that demonstrates exceptional leadership and community spirit. This award recognizes a district's major accomplishments, series of outstanding efforts, and a steady determination to serve its constituency. This year's winner, Pikes Peak Library District, truly exemplifies these qualities.

The history of public libraries in the Pikes Peak Region began in October 1885 when the Colorado Springs Social Union established a library in downtown Colorado Springs. In 1905, a new library opened with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie and land granted by General William Jackson Palmer. In 1962, a majority of El Paso County citizens voted to establish a special taxing district, and Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) was formed. After not joining the District initially in 1962, the town of Manitou Springs subsequently voted to join PPLD at the beginning of 2013.

As the second largest library system in Colorado, PPLD serves a population of more than 660,000 residents in El Paso
County, with the exception of Security/Widefield School District #3. This includes all unincorporated areas and municipalities of Calhan, Colorado Springs, Ellicott, Falcon, Fountain, Manitou Springs, Monument, and Palmer Lake. The District is able to serve such a large number of citizens thanks to an employee base of nearly 475 full-and part-time staff and almost 1,700 volunteers. PPLD’s Board of Trustees consists of seven members from the community. The citizen volunteers are appointed jointly by the Colorado Springs City Council and El Paso County Commissioners for a maximum of two five-year terms.

The District currently operates 16 facilities throughout the county. In addition to the large collections of physical and digital materials that are available, a number of sites also feature state-of-the art services, such as makerspaces and studios. PPLD’s makerspaces offer access to tools, materials, and machines to help bring patrons’ creative visions to life. Equipment such as 3D printers; laser engraving and cutting machines; and assorted handicraft and art tools are all available for use. In the District’s studios, Library cardholders have access to items such as cameras, audio mixers, and even a green screen to produce professional-grade recordings. Moreover, the District operates a three-vehicle mobile fleet that delivers Library services to more rural and remote areas as well as to communities for individuals who have limited mobility.

The District has also established a number of strategic partnerships to help serve their local community. For example, the new Pikes Peak Culture Pass program allows patrons to explore museums and attractions in the Pikes Peak region at no cost. By collaborating with local organizations, PPLD provides free admission passes for check out, increasing opportunities for education and cultural learning. In addition, the District has expanded its adult learning programs in recent years. Career Online High School is an online high school diploma and career certification program provided by PPLD. Students can choose a major from a list of high-growth, high-demand career fields and complete coursework to develop the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for. The District also offers English as a Second Language classes and food industry training.

In 2018, in partnership with The Place (formerly Urban Peak Colorado Springs), the District launched a first-of-its-kind initiative in Colorado aimed at helping teen runaways and youth experiencing homelessness. The partnership resulted in PPLD locations becoming a part of the National Safe Place Network. As a part of this network, an at-risk youth can enter the library and ask for help. From there, the library staff can contact The Place who will then arrive and begin to find the appropriate assistance.

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the District transformed its library services to expand access beyond the traditional use of libraries. PPLD launched a number of virtual programs and began offering curbside services. When the pandemic first began and there was concern over a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), the District became involved with a group called Make4COVID, whose wide network of members worked together to 3D print PPE. As part of the effort, PPLD distributed several of its larger 3D printers to makers in the community who were then able to make face shield parts in the safety of their own homes. The District staff also used sewing machines and smaller 3D printers to assist in this vital work.

For nearly 60 years, Pikes Peak Library District has welcomed all members of their local community to enrich their minds, make connections, and reach their full potential. Through innovative initiatives and programming, resourcefulness, and responsiveness to the needs of their patrons, the District is truly living its mission to provide library resources and services that impact lives and build community across El Paso County.

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Pikes Peak Library District Foundation Named in $2 Million Dollar Bequest

Pikes Peak Library District Foundation is honored to receive $150,000 from the estate of Milt and Darlene Johnson.

As we have come to learn, Milt was what we at PPLD would refer to as a “power user.” While serving as the pharmacist at Broadmoor Drug at The Broadmoor Hotel, Milt often worked the 4-11 p.m. shift. With Dar teaching during the day, Milt became a mainstay at our Penrose Library where he spent countless hours educating himself on investments and investment strategies, pouring over resources such as The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and Barron’s.

After he retired, Milt continued to visit the library almost daily and used the knowledge he gained at the library to build and grow his and Darlene’s investment portfolio. In fact, Milt became such a subject matter expert that many of the investment advisors he and Darlene used often called Milt for advice. We are grateful to be a recipient of their generosity, which based on this story, is due in part to the time Milt spent at Penrose Library. PPLD’s mission is to provide resources and opportunities that impact individual lives and build community, and we cannot think of a more compelling story that demonstrates the impact of patrons connecting with library resources and in this case quite literally building our community.

PPLD and the PPLD Foundation are truly grateful to Darlene and Milt for including the library as part of the imprint these gifts will forever leave on our region, and we are deeply touched by Darlene’s gesture to make the gift to PPLD in Milt’s memory. The PPLD Foundation was created in 2003 to raise philanthropic funds and build an endowment to support our 15 libraries and the more than 650,000 people we serve. PPLD ranks 10th out of Colorado’s 13 largest library systems in funding per person, and the PPLD Foundation was created to accept meaningful, generous gifts like Darlene’s. It is donations large and small that helps PPLD close our funding gap and continue providing resources and opportunities that impact individual lives and build community. We are truly sorry to have lost Darlene and Milt, but these gifts will ensure their legacy is forever remembered.

Read more about the Johnsons and their estate in The Gazette's coverage here.

Photo credit: Joe Hollmann and the City of Colorado Springs


For more information on how you can include PPLD in your estate planning and create your own lasting legacy, contact Lance James at (719) 531-6333, x6890, or email foundation@ppld.org.

Learn more about the work of the PPLD Foundation.

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Sufia Davidson

Sufia immigrated to the United States after meeting her husband, Joshua Davidson. He is a soldier at Fort Carson and met Sufia in her home country of Afghanistan. The two were married in 2009 and in the first six years of their marriage had two beautiful children.

Sufia loved her new home and life but was still missing one thing she really wanted: a job. While attending GED test preparation classes at Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD), she was visited by Lacey Miller, PPLD’s Library Instruction Designer. Lacey told Sufia’s class about a new training opportunity: Food Industry Training. The certification program prepares participants in an intensive four week format to become qualified line and prep cooks.

“Miss Lacey told us that with this class you could learn lots of skills and you could find a job in the restaurant industry,” Sufia said. “I wasn’t sure I could do this, but then I talked to my husband. He told me to go do it because in my home country, I wouldn’t have an opportunity like this because I am a woman.”

Sufia enrolled in the program and began her intensive training during May 2019. Now, she’s a Food Industry Training graduate and working in a prominent Colorado Springs hotel.

Sufia DavidsonThe Food Industry Training program is recognized by the Pikes Peak Workforce Center and several other workforce centers in Colorado as an approved training option. Students learn the foundational skills necessary in the food service industry, such as: kitchen safety, knife skills, basic math, recipe reading, and cooking methods. Food safety and sanitation are part of every class. Real world life skills, including dependability, adaptability, memorization, time management, and team work are also of great emphasis. Work readiness skills like resume preparation, job search, and interview practice and preparation are included, too. Food Industry Training graduates have been hired by The Broadmoor, The Mining Exchange Hotel, UC Health hospitals, senior living centers, and others.

In the past, the Food Industry Training program has generously been hosted in kitchens at other organizations throughout the city. But, without a deep freezer, gas line, and necessary appliances, students have been unable to experience the full scope of working in a commercial kitchen and our program offerings have been limited to times when kitchen space was made available to us. This year, and with your support, PPLD is bringing this program in house with the renovation of kitchen space at Library 21C. Turning this space into a state of the art kitchen will help us grow and improve the Food Industry Training program and create new food education programs for our patrons. These programs, when we have been able to offer them, have been wildly popular!

In the time of COVID 19, when millions of Americans are experiencing joblessness and uncertainty, PPLD is proud to offer programs that will help members of our community get back to work. The Food Industry Training program helps not only individuals like Sufia, but area restaurants and businesses that are hurting in the aftermath of this public health crisis.

Will you support PPLD, and programs like Food Industry Training, by donating today? We serve you, your family, friends, and neighbors and exist to provide resources and opportunities that impact individual lives and build community.

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Given our stand against racism, along with the continued national and local conversations, we want to highlight and celebrate the Shivers Fund.

Clarence and Peggy Shivers created the Shivers Fund at Pikes Peak Library District, in concert with PPLD, in 1993. They introduced the Shivers African American Historical and Cultural Collection at PPLD, which continues to expand annually thanks to the Shivers Fund and its many supporters. In addition to the collection, the Shivers Fund at PPLD also provides opportunities for our community to celebrate history, culture, and the arts. The Fund hosts concerts and other events, as well as helps expands educational and cultural opportunities for young people to encourage tolerance and diversity.

Our Library District and Foundation applaud the Shivers Fund for its continued investment to create more tolerance, diversity, and community in the Pikes Peak region.

Learn more about the history and work of the Shivers Fund.

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Young Adult Services Specialist Philip Krogmeier has been with Pikes Peak Library District for almost 10 years. But he's not just a staff member, he's a library supporter is who is happy to share his time and treasure to help make PPLD an amazing place for our community. We put him on the hot chair to ask him questions about why PPLD is so important to him.

Tell us your name and what you do at PPLD.
My name is Philip Krogmeier, and I am a Young Adult Services Specialist at Library 21c. I assist in preparing and presenting programs for our teen patrons, and I help at all of the public service desks.

What is your favorite part of your job/the patrons you work with?
I love to help my teen patrons find books that speak to them.

What is your favorite thing about PPLD?
My favorite thing about PPLD is the sheer variety of services it provides. PPLD is so much more than a traditional library system.

Why do you choose to give back and support PPLD?
I choose to support PPLD because PPLD has supported me since the first day I walked through the doors of the East Library. I immediately felt welcomed, and that feeling hasn't faded in almost 10 years.

Why do you think it’s important for the community to support PPLD?
Without community support, PPLD wouldn't be able to provide the level of assistance that it does. PPLD serves as an anchor for the Colorado Springs community, allowing everyone to gain access to materials and services.

What is the most memorable question you’ve been asked by a patron?
A patron once asked me if she could take a photo of me so that she could use it as a reference for a painting of Jesus.

Where/when can people come by and say hi to you?
I can usually be found most weekdays at the 21c Teen Desk or upstairs in the Makerspace.

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