News Flash

Library Evergreen

Posted on: March 1, 2023

What Is a Library?

Mabel Wilkinson, Park County Librarian

by Katie Remme, Wright Branch Library Manager

George Eberhart, in The Librarian’s Book of Lists, provides this definition: “A library is a collection of resources in a variety of formats that is (1) organized by information professionals or other experts who (2) provide convenient physical, digital, bibliographic, or intellectual access and (3) offer targeted services and programs (4) with the mission of educating, informing, or entertaining a variety of audiences (5) and the goal of stimulating individual learning and advancing society as a whole.”

We tend to think of libraries in terms of physical buildings, from the grand Library of Congress to one of Wyoming’s five historic Carnegie libraries still in operation. Libraries are much more than that, and sometimes the “building” is a bus, van, or shipping container. In Colombia, donkeys bring books and other information to remote villages, and the program is appropriately named, Biblioburro.

Wyoming had its very own traveling librarian, Mabel Wilkinson. She was the first librarian for the Carnegie Library in Cody in 1916 and she traveled 400 miles over two weeks, to bring library services to the far-flung Park County communities. Her mode of transportation? A horse named Joker. Today, libraries across the state proudly display a poster of Mabel with her picture (at right) and words from an advertisement for a library director in Northern Wyoming, 1916: “A Wyoming librarian...must be able to get along with Western people, ride and drive, as well as pack a horse, follow a trail, shoot straight, run an automobile, and be able to rough it whenever necessary.” Most of that description still holds true today!

A physical location is optional in our modern age, and patrons can visit many digital libraries. The Digital Public Library of America, National Library of Medicine, Getty Publications Virtual Library, and Biodiversity Heritage Library are all available free of charge. Campbell County library patrons can access a world of information through numerous databases and apps with their library card.

Books are still what comes to mind when people think of libraries, and whether physical or digital, each library’s collection is carefully selected by staff to meet the needs of their community. The books may reflect personal experiences of their readers or be a window to the experiences of others; they chronicle the best and worst of the human experience. Books found within libraries educate, enlighten, challenge, and inspire their readers.

Libraries offer more than books! Patrons also find technology including computers connected to the internet and loaded with software to help facilitate the creation and distribution of information. Library makerspaces are full of tools to help develop your small business, record a podcast, or create a birthday card. Libraries also offer programs. In 2022, your libraries in Gillette and Wright hosted an astounding 602 programs attended by 24,979 people of all ages.

All of this is made possible because of the most important part of any library, its people. It was people that recognized the importance of creating a space whose purpose was not to turn a profit but instead to share information freely. It was people who came together to fund these unique spaces, and in times of war, it is people who come together to defend them. While libraries have changed and will continue to change, at their core, they will always be for the people, by the people.

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