Access, Experiences and Education All From a Backpack at Your Library: An Overview of the Check Out Colorado State Parks Program

For almost eight years, Colorado Department of Education’s Colorado State Library (CSL), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), and libraries across Colorado have partnered to ensure Coloradans have access to their state parks. The resulting program, Check Out Colorado State Parks, provides participating Colorado libraries with materials for their community members to explore the outdoors, including a day pass to Colorado State Parks and a backpack that contains an exploration kit. Borrowers head into Colorado State Parks with binoculars, field guides for identifying flora and fauna, and fishing and outdoor activity guides. Every pack also includes a Leave No Trace card to encourage park visitors to learn about park stewardship and keep our parks free of debris. Anyone with a library card to a participating library can check out the backpack and Colorado State Parks pass for a week at a time. A total of 308 library locations from 158 library districts or systems in the state participate in the Check Out Colorado State Parks program. This includes 115 Colorado public library systems (e.g., county, municipal, and special library districts), 37 academic libraries, three military libraries, and three special libraries.

The Check Out Colorado State Parks pilot program ran from October 2015 to March 2016 with eight participating libraries. The success of the pilot led to an expansion of the program with 279 more libraries joining in 2016. Beginning in June 2016, CSL began collecting data and reporting on the program annually to library and partner stakeholders. Data on circulation of the pass and backpack are collected to gauge interest in the materials and calculate the savings provided to Coloradans. This program saves Coloradans around $69,800 annually, with only minimal costs to CPW and CSL. Additionally, libraries include surveys in the backpack to gain insight on patrons’ experiences, and discover how the backpacks were used. Borrowers are also asked to share thoughts about their experiences at the parks with an open-ended question. CSL has continued to gather borrower feedback through surveys over the last 7 years. Annually, CSL’s Library Research Service (LRS) creates an infographic of patron feedback and survey findings. These data and reports are shared with CPW, participating libraries, and other organizations interested in partnering with libraries. This report shares CSL’s findings from patron surveys completed from June 2016 to March 2023 and circulation data from 2016 through 2022.

Click here to read the full Closer Look Report. 


Read the full Closer Look Report here.