Over the past week we’ve been able to visit only one library due to the July 4th holiday and riding through national parks. We spent our July 4th in Dubois, Wyoming (population 1,000), enjoying the parade and eating ice cream. We spent the next three days in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We will always remember the approaching backdrop of the Tetons; the herd of elk we rode through at 5:30 in the morning; the sunrises; and Yellowstone’s hot springs/geysers. We will also remember sharing the narrow roads with RVs--that was something.
So, after visiting only one library last week, we were pretty excited to arrive at the West Yellowstone Library today. West Yellowstone, Montana, is home to about 10,000 people during the summers. Population drops to only 1,200 during the winters, perhaps due to its reputation as one of the coldest places in the United States. Last winter, the snow reached above the roof of the library. Housing is difficult to find and expensive. But if you want to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, you make the jump and move to West Yellowstone anyway- like Steve and Monica, the library staff we met during our visit.
Steve moved to West Yellowstone over ten years ago to devote more time to fly-fishing. The library has a great fly-fishing collection, many of the books donated by residents. During our visit we met Warren, a library patron actually tying flies in the library.
Outside the library is the community garden where residents can rent a plot for the season. The growing season is short here, with only 30 frost-free days. Garden covers are a necessity. Steve also showed us a section of the library dedicated to Pre-K learning. The library offers two Pre-K sessions a week at no charge and has ‘graduated’ more than 150 children. The Library Director, Bruce McPherson, helped to raise funds for a new preschool in town, celebrating its opening this summer.
The library offers Spanish and English courses, free of charge. They have also offered Mandarin lessons in the past, since the Asian tourism industry is booming in West Yellowstone. This small town has six Chinese restaurants and several hotels that cater to guests mainly from China and Korea.
The book budget has remained level for the past ten years but Steve tells us that additional books are available through inter-library loan within the Gallatin County Free Public Library system (includes Bozeman Public Library). The shipping of books from one location to another is provided at no charge by a local beer distributor, the Cardinal Company. They figure they need to deliver the beer anyway, why not help with the books?
Thanks to Steve, Monica, and Warren for visiting with us and telling us about the library and life in West Yellowstone. We admire your decisions to move to this beautiful place and your part in creating such a welcoming space for your community and tourists such as ourselves.