A Wyoming Couple is Visiting All Our Libraries

Libraries are an important part of many Americans’ daily lives, but for one soon-to-be-Wyoming couple, they’re such an important part of life that they’re making their decision about where to move based on the public libraries!

Here’s their story.

For retired military couple Vern and Shireen Liebl, making a new home in Wyoming is the next part of their shared adventure. Libraries are a huge part of their life story; in fact, the college sweethearts actually met in the library at the University of Utah, and have been visiting libraries together all over the world.

Vern’s long career in military intelligence has led to a globe-trotting marriage that has seen plenty of libraries, from university libraries in Afghanistan to the massive Library of Congress here in the United States. 

The couple’s shared love of libraries has led them on a unique journey throughout the state as they decide where to settle down permanently. They’re visiting every public library in Wyoming before making their final decision!

How Many Libraries Are In Wyoming?

When the Liebls set out on their journey, there were 74 libraries in Wyoming– and they were insistent on visiting all of them. Sadly, one of their stops, the library in Shoshoni, is slated to close due to lack of public use. 

Of particular interest to Shireen are Wyoming’s Carnegie Libraries. These libraries were built between 1883 and 1929 and were funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. They represent a major investment in the US public library system, so visiting them is a look at both Wyoming’s past and the history of public libraries. 

In addition to all of the libraries in Wyoming, the Liebls are also interested in visiting Wyoming’s old hotels and getting a real feel for the state’s culture and history. Their travels around the state have included a 44-mile bike ride in the Jackson area and a long-term stay in Thermopolis, their temporary home base while they scout out a permanent home. 

Shireen and Vern's Library Notes

There are a lot of amazing features in the Cowboy State’s libraries that Vern and Shireen appreciate. One of their favorites is Wyoming’s extensive interlibrary loan system, where all of the state’s libraries come together to share books. If you want a book that’s anywhere in the Wyoming library system, any of the libraries can get it for you.

Shireen also really appreciates how youth-oriented the Wyoming libraries are. She notes that there’s “a lot of emphasis in trying to incorporate activities and places for teens and children in the libraries,” even more than she often saw in her home state of Virginia. They’ve seen entire library floors turned over to kids. Vern expressed hope that more libraries would adopt a program he encountered at the Sundance public library: 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. The Wyoming libraries’ encouragement of young readers is a common theme throughout the state, and something that both Shireen and Vern consider highly impressive.

Another highlight of the Wyoming libraries has been the Wyoming library staff. The Liebls were enamored with how dedicated to preserving the public library system all of the staff members they met seemed, and how open and personable they were. At one of the libraries, they noticed the staff painting with local kids on a day off from school. Even in tiny libraries like the one in Clearmont (population: 142), the staff was warm and welcoming. 

The couple has also been impressed by the programming and multi-use functions that Wyoming’s libraries serve. Shireen was invited to give a talk on women in Afghanistan at the Thermopolis public library, which hosts speakers and holds monthly movie nights with dinner for the community. Some of Wyoming’s libraries have artifacts on display, specialized reading rooms, and even share space with museums and exhibits.  

What’s Next for Vern and Shireen?

There’s a lot of mileage in Wyoming, so it’s only natural that Shireen and Vern are still on their quest to visit all 74 public libraries before settling down. Wyoming’s weather has made it difficult to get to certain parts of the state, and in the couple’s most recent interview, they mentioned that they were planning a trip to visit seven libraries in the western part of the state. While the snow made travel difficult, warmer spring weather is sure to have made visiting different parts of Wyoming and the libraries there easier.

So what’s next for Vern and Shireen? Only time will tell… To be continued!