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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cowboys have best public library in the US

A recent (Sept. 11th 2008) article in The Economist lauds the public libraries in the country "of mountains and cattle." A tiny town in southern Wyoming by the name of Burns might be surrounded by paddocks, boast a population of 300, have just one school, and a main drag that's a little rundown, but its public library is stacked with 11,500 books.

It's the same in Cheyenne, a town that still commemorates its place in Western genre fiction by holding an annual rodeo -- their $27 million flagship library (pictured above) boasts 300,000 volumes, along with computer labs and several state-of-the-art meeting rooms. It is no surprise that the Laramie Library system has won the 2008 Library of the Year Award.

At first glance, it seems that these libraries must be funded by billionaires in ten-gallon hats. But no -- they get their annual allowances from public funding. So how do they do it? By gauging their holdings to local reading tastes, it seems. There is a lot of Christian fiction, as well as advice on how to repair and maintain trucks, and manuals on livestock management. People drive long distances, so plenty of books on tape and CD are stocked.

The limited schooling opportunities are kept well in mind, with mobile vans for a constant revolving supply of reading. The central library runs book clubs for home-schooled children and teenagers, which are well-attended.

See this interesting article with graphics and related items at

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