by Terri Lesley, CCPLS Executive Director
Public libraries are a fundamental component of thriving communities, a sentiment which has been well understood by Wyoming citizens for a long time. Wyoming was granted statehood in 1890, and by the early 1900s, Wyoming citizens were applying for Carnegie grants, building Carnegie libraries, and recruiting qualified librarians to provide library service to their communities.
Development of Campbell County’s libraries began in 1924. The first library occupied the attic of the courthouse and then was moved in 1930 to a small, unoccupied house. In 1942, the George Amos Memorial Library opened and was a great source of pride to the Gillette community. In 1983, the Campbell County Public Library opened to better serve Gillette’s booming population. Meanwhile, in the mid-1970s, the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) began developing the town of Wright so that workers could be close to coal mine worksites. By the early 2000s, Wright residents were seeking ways to enhance their community, and the item at the top of their wish list was a standalone library. The beloved Wright Branch Library opened in 2003 and has played a vital role in helping Wright develop as a well-rounded, vibrant community.
Today, as reduced demand for coal, low oil prices, and the pandemic continue to take a toll on our economy, Campbell County Libraries continue to be essential to the communities they serve. Here are a few why:
Public libraries are an economic equalizer. Public libraries are open to all and provide access to information, technology, and programs that help people improve their lives.
Public libraries are ground zero for early literacy. Storytimes, which are carefully crafted by library professionals, develop early literacy and school readiness skills. Libraries inspire young children to love reading, and therefore to perform better in all aspects of their education.
Public libraries attract workers and new residents. Libraries are an amenity that new residents look for when moving to the community.
Public libraries offer public technology. Public technology is used by patrons of all ages to access the internet, computers, research databases, and other resources.
Public libraries help communities during economic downturns. Libraries get busy when the economy slows down, not only because of free materials and resources, but also because librarians help people create resumes, apply for jobs, and complete online applications for unemployment and other benefits.
Public libraries support economic development. Libraries provide resources geared to small businesses and entrepreneurs and also provide traveling workers with a space to access technology and workspaces.
Public libraries support educational institutions. Librarians proctor tests for distance learners, assist homeschool families to access educational resources, subscribe to homework tutoring services, and partner with schools to support local curriculum.
Public libraries are community centers. Libraries offer meeting spaces, curate local genealogy resources, and work with community partners to connect patrons with
Public libraries promote creativity. Public libraries offer collaborative makerspaces and programs to inspire making, learning, exploring, and sharing for all ages.