research library, rural library: a trip to yellowstone

Thanks to Jessi at the Yellowstone Research Library for a few corrections and updates!

There are a lot of great things about being a librarian in Wyoming. (To begin with, you get to live in Wyoming, although I recognize this is not everyone’s idea of a Great Thing.) You get to be part of a (relatively) well-funded state library network. You get to have Craig Johnson come visit your library for the price of a six-pack of Rainier Ale. You get to be proud to be from the same state as Mabel Wilkinson. And, once in awhile, you get to go to meetings in Yellowstone National Park. (Note to the National Park Service: consider hiring an information architect. Really. Your websites are horrid to navigate.)

I got to do just that last week. Region 2 of the WYLD network had a meeting at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center, and we stayed over night at Mammoth Hot Springs. The Research Center used to be at Mammoth, in the Wyoming part of Yellowstone, and so even though it moved to new spiffy quarters a couple of years ago in Gardiner, Montana, the library part is still considered to be part of the Wyoming library network.

I arrived a bit late for the full tour, but I got to see a few Thomas Moran water colors, with his notes on how to expand them into full fledged paintings, and I got to see the library. The library consists of books that are all related in some way to Yellowstone, from environmental impact statements to novels set in the park; vertical file materials of all sorts; a map room with lots of nifty maps; and an archive with all kinds of papers related to the park, including many decades worth of log books and 296 linear feet of papers related to the 1988 fires.

Two librarians staff the library, though they occasionally also have volunteers or an intern. If I’m remembering this correctly, the Yellowstone Association runs the building and the librarians work for the National Park Service, but I might have that backwards–it’s a confusing amalgam of responsibilities. There was at one time an archivist, but his position wasn’t kept after he retired. Because the library is so short-staffed, a lot of the collection is languishing–not decaying, but not getting fully described and cataloged, much less digitized.

Correction–in fact, I did have it backwards: the NPS runs the building, the librarians work for the Yellowstone Association. Also, the didn’t retire; he left to take another position. The Park has yet to decide whether or not to replace him. [Another note to the NPS–hire archivists!]

I am in many ways lucky, I know. There aren’t many towns the size of Meeteetse (pop. 351, elev. 5797) that have a library of 25,000 with internet access and a wide array of electronic resources that’s open 44 hours a week. Gardiner, Montana, by contrast, has a population of 851 and a public library that’s open 11 hours a week and has one computer (at least according to this Chamber of Commerce newsletter–scroll about a third of the way down). It wasn’t open while we were there. The vagaries of library funding tend, quite frequently, toward the depressing.

On a less somber note, we did see deer, antelope, elk, bison and baby bison, a mama black bear and a black bear cub, and two coyotes in the park. I don’t have any pictures of the wildlife, but a few shots of the park, the libraries, and the general environs are up on Flickr.

One thought on “research library, rural library: a trip to yellowstone”

  1. Laura, I really enjoy your reports. Going to a library meeting in Yellowstone, seeing the park and the wildlife, sounds so cool. Funny that you saw only two coyotes in Wyoming. I actually saw three coyotes yesterday right along Ogden Avenue coming out of the marsh in Bemis Woods in Western Springs. Suburban Chicago is getting pretty wild!

    Other news: my daughter will be going to the University of Iowa. We’re going to get to know Iowa City pretty well.

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