Couple’s Library Tour Of Wyoming Continues; Impressed With Story, Moorcroft, Newcastle
The Story library is “lovely.”
Moorcroft’s is “a cozy little gem.”
And the Clearmont library, while “inconspicuous,” is worth seeking out.
That’s the most recent report from new Wyoming residents Vern and Shireen Liebl, who have made it their mission to visit every library in their new home state.
Since Cowboy State Daily first featured the couple in November, the Liebls have made their home in Thermopolis, which is where they map out their upcoming library quests. In the last month, they’ve focused their travels on northeast Wyoming.
The LIebls are looking for a permanent home in Wyoming and at the top of their list for what’s most important is a great library.
Clearmont, a tiny town of 142 people in rural Sheridan County, does have a library – and while it is on the main street through town, it was hard to find, Vern said.
“It’s a silver door on silver siding, then there’s a little sign,” he said. “Then you walk in and you’re in a little sitting room and you have to go through it, and then you’ve got to go through a kitchen, and then there’s the library.”
But the librarian is a joy, he pointed out.
“The lady back there was really, really sweet,” said Vern. “She said, ‘I think this is the smallest library in all of Wyoming.’ And I said, ‘But you know, it’s the friendliest.’”
The town’s name implies that books are valued in this small community of fewer than 1,000 people in Sheridan County.
The building itself blends into a wooded locale, a log structure set back from the curb on Piney Street.
What stood out to Vern and Shireen was the computer area in Story’s library.
“Their computer area sits literally in a bay window, and you can just look outside and look up when you’re typing,” said Vern. “And it’s just lovely.”
The public library in Gillette wasn’t entirely open to the Liebls when they visited in December. A water main break in September flooded the basement of the Campbell County Public Library, so some of the rooms were being re-purposed.
“They have this (George) Amos reading room that I was interested in,” said Vern, referring to the benefactor who bequeathed the money to build the library. “But it was all full up with people from the basement, because they’d had a flood in the basement three months ago, so they were drying and fixing it up, and so it was temporarily off-limits.
“But they had lots of books (and) the stacks were kind of neat.”
The library in Moorcroft, 30 miles east of Gillette off Interstate 90, was “a cozy little gem,” Vern said.
It was the activity in the building, more than the books, that caught Shireen’s attention.
“They have no school on Fridays,” she said, “and so (the staff) was painting with the kids.”
Creative arts are showcased in the library. Shireen took a photo of the stairs in the building, which have been painted to resemble large book bindings.
“They painted on the steps, so you can read them, the series of books as you go up,” said Vern.
On their way to check out the Hulett library, the couple passed by Devils Tower, the first time Shireen had seen the massive landmark up close.
“She’s like, ‘Oh my god, that’s Devils Tower,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo,’” Vern said, humming the famous strain from the 1977 movie “Close Encounters Of the Third Kind” starring Richard Dreyfuss.
“It was actually really beautiful to drive up there,” he said, adding that the library in Hulett was “warm.”
“It’s a small library, but it’s done in a wood decor and it’s kind of warm, and it’s part of the high school and the city government,” he said. “It’s all kind of in the same building complex.”
In the small town of Wright about 40 minutes south of Gillette on Highway 59, Shireen said the librarians make visitors feel right at home.
“As you enter, they have a little fireplace, a little nook and really comfortable chairs,” she said. “And they have matching Western motif blankets on the backs of the chairs, so anyone can just unfold the blanket if they want in front of the fireplace.”
And the Wright library doesn’t lend out just books.
“Right next to where they have those cozy chairs with the blankets, they had like a 6-foot-long box, and it was full of plastic containers, which inside of them were baking tins,” said Vern. “So I asked the lady, ‘Do you check out baking tins?’ And she said, ‘Yes, we do a lot of baking here, so people can check out baking tins of various kinds, and then they clean them and return them.’”
In Newcastle, the entrance to the original Carnegie library has been converted to the director’s office, and the collections have been moved to a larger addition. But Shireen said the large windows in the original building have been put to good use.
“If you peek in, you can’t help but notice in the director’s office that she has all these huge, lovely healthy indoor plants,” she said, adding that it’s something she’s noticed in other Wyoming libraries.
“Most of them have plants of various kinds, and they’re just so healthy and doing so well,” she said. “Maybe it’s reflective of the care that they put into their libraries.”
And Vern discovered a relic from the past at the Newcastle library.
“It has a microfiche reader, the only one I have seen in any of the libraries,” Vern said, adding that he has been told at other libraries that all of their archived information has been digitized.
“I expressed my amazement to the librarian, and she proudly said it was heavily used,” Vern said.
The Liebls traveled as far south as Lander on their most recent library quest, and were very impressed by the public library there, which was built in the Carnegie style but has since been expanded.
“It looks really, really nice,” said Vern, explaining that the original building has been incorporated into a larger community center.
“And on the inside it’s fantastic,” he said. “They have murals on the ceilings that show the progress of Lander as an area. It’s warm and cozy and their kids’ section is nice.”
Focus On Kids
Shireen said that a common theme in many of the libraries they’ve visited in the Mountain West is encouragement for young readers.
“In Newcastle, just like in Moorcroft, the whole basement has been turned over to the kids,” said Shireen.
And the Sundance library had a program that Vern said he wished more organizations would adopt.
“It was 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,” he said. “And if a kid did that, they would put their picture up on the wall – and there were dozens of kids’ pictures up there.”
Shireen observed that the outward support and encouragement for young readers in Wyoming is quite a contrast from their experiences in other parts of the country.
“We lived in a county in Virginia that’s one of the richest counties in the country,” she said. “And the teen section in the library was a little room, no pictures, nowhere to sit, they didn’t even have comfortable chairs.
“Whereas here in the West, there seems to be a lot of emphasis in trying to incorporate activities and places for teens and children in the libraries and community centers, which is really, really important.”
One aspect of all Wyoming public libraries that amazed Shireen is that you can check out library books from any public library in the state and return them to any other library in Wyoming.
“I’ve traveled and lived in different places and never have I encountered this,” she said. “We can go up to Basin and check out books there and return them to any library and they’ll make their way back home.”
Vern said he likes to drop money in library donation boxes to offset the cost of mailing books back to their home libraries.
“And they’ll renew your books too,” he added. “Any county library in the state, they’ll renew your books wherever you are.”
The Liebls plan to take their quest toward Jackson in the upcoming weeks.
“We’ve got a trip planned where we’re going to hit seven different libraries in the west (part of the state), if it just stops snowing,” Vern said.