Building the Land Library: Step by Step

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Ann Martin & Jeff Lee, co-founders of the Rocky Mountain Land Library.

As 2018 draws to a close, we wanted to catch-up with the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s co-founders, Jeff Lee and Ann Martin.

Jeff and Ann have been booksellers at Denver’s Tattered Cover for over 30 years. Back in the 90’s, while on a book-buying trip for the store, they came upon St Deiniol’s Residential Library in Wales. That visit was the start of their dream to create a residential library in Colorado – one focused on people and the land.

The dream has grown since that trip. Just this past month, Jeff and Ann officially donated the books they have been gathering for the Land Library, a collection valued at more than $600,000.

The Land Library social media team (LL) spoke with Jeff before the holidays. We hope to corral Ann later!

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LL: How did two booksellers acquire more than 40,000 books, plus a 95-year lease at a historic Colorado ranch?

Jeff: Wow, that’s a long story, and one that’s about many more people than Ann and I! But, as for the 40,000 books, a big part of that can be explained by the fact that Ann and I have worked at the Tattered Cover Book Store for more than 30 years. With that daily immersion in the world of books, the Land Library has grown, book by book, year after year.

Once Ann and I committed to the idea of a residential library, we also decided to take the first step by actually buying the books themselves. We felt that it was important to make the Land Library real, from the very start.

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The Cooks House at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, with Mount Silverheels in the distance. photo by Samuel Bell

LL: But you only donated the books a few weeks ago?

Jeff: Right — the books were always meant for the Land Library, we just felt it was time to make it official.

LL: OK, so you gathered a book collection valued at more than $600,000, but how did the Land Library acquire Buffalo Peaks Ranch?

Jeff: Well, other than the books, we’ve never had much money behind us. We definitely could never even think of purchasing a 1,500 acre ranch, especially one that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But by working with Park County and the City of Aurora (the ranch’s owner), we were able to sign a 95-year lease at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. We are definitely in it for the long haul!

We’re already planning our most ambitious summer of ranch renovation & programs, coming up in 2019. We hope everyone will stay tuned for that!

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The Horse Barn at Buffalo Peaks Ranch.

LL: Back to the books for a minute. Last spring, Land Library volunteers moved over 1,400 boxes of books to our new Library/warehouse in Denver’s Globeville neighborhood:

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The Land Library’s new home in Globeville.

What will we find when we start opening those boxes?

Jeff: I think everyone will find great books — both eye-opening and inspiring — and there will be lots of surprises too!

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Ron Dirlam, our favorite carpenter, in front of his handiwork, as the first few books hit the shelves at Globeville.

The core of the Land Library’s collection has always been about people and the land. That takes in natural history, a range of environmental issues, Western & Native American history, literature, poetry, art, and more.

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Gregg Deal and his daughter perform the Invisible Loss Movement during the Re/Call Art Exhibition this past September. photo by Helen Thorpe

The Land Library’s books are also rooted in the diverse cultures that define where we all live. We’ve also sought out titles that help us live lighter on the land. In short, we hope the Land Library’s books will be used as tools for all of us, as we move forward.

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The Middle Fork of the South Platte River flows through the ranch. photo by Samuel Bell.

One other thing I should mention: There’s a certain tone that we’ve always tried to strike with the books we’ve gathered. Plenty of our titles challenge us to do better, and to fix the harm our way of living inflicts on the earth. We need those books!

But even more of the Land Library’s books are about the beauty and endless fascination of the natural world. Here’s a simple & brilliant quote from Jeff Bridges – one that fired up our current end-of-the-year Fundraising Campaign:

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It’s natural to love the earth, so you don’t have to be motivated to save it out of fear, but rather because you love the gift of life and the planet.

That’s the feeling we hope the Land Library will foster, from Buffalo Peaks Ranch, to Denver’s Globeville neighborhood.

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Early morning mist at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. photo by Larry Glass.

LL: Last question: what are you reading now?

Jeff: For some reason I’ve been reading a lot of British nature writers lately. I finished up Helen Jukes’ beekeeping memoir, A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings (I loved it!), and now I’m reading Horatio Clare’s winter journal, The Light in the Dark. I’m really liking that book – it’s helping me to get a fresh outlook on our season of snow & cold!

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Jeff Lee, and one of the Land Library’s architect/planners, Ted Schultz, trading ideas in front of the Cooks House (prior to it’s new paint job!)

Step by step, book by book

Our Year-end Fundraising Campaign wraps up in a week!

Feel free to click on our PayPal donation button below, or it you prefer to write a check, our best address is:

Rocky Mountain Land Library, 2550 W. 39th Avenue, Denver, CO 80211.

THANKS SO MUCH for your Support!

Click Here for PayPal.

For more on the Rocky Mountain Land Library & South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch, we hope you enjoy this 7-minute video:

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