Public library value

I wrote a blog entry from the fine public library in Cheyenne last year. I was interested to come across an article mentioning this same library in this week's Economist.

Laramie County’s libraries are the best of an excellent lot. Their flagship is a three-storey, zinc-clad edifice in Cheyenne, a town best-known for its annual rodeo. In addition to a third of a million volumes, the building contains well-equipped meeting rooms and computer labs. It has a large area oriented towards teenagers which is often busy, in part because of the librarians’ tolerant attitude to food. In all, about three-quarters of Laramie County’s 86,000 residents hold library cards. [Public libraries in Wyoming | Why cowboys read | The Economist]

And this being the Economist there is a punchline ....

This attention to outreach and meeting local demands is partly the legacy of a long campaign to build Cheyenne’s library. In 2003, after more than ten years’ work, the librarians managed to put an initiative on the county ballot that allocated $27m in additional sales taxes to the new building. Tax increases are always a tough sell in Wyoming, so the librarians were forced to find out exactly what the people of Laramie County wanted for their libraries, and give it to them. In southern Wyoming, at least, an excellent library system was not built in the face of resistance to public spending. The interesting truth is that it is excellent precisely because of it. [Public libraries in Wyoming | Why cowboys read | The Economist]

I am reminded of a piece I have quoted before from Eleanor Jo Rodger in the September 2007 Library Journal.

Creating value for our host systems always involves three things: Librarians must understand their host systems; they must understand the source of their claim to being a legitimate part of their system; and they must do their work well so the system is better because they are there. It's usually far more a matter of asking and listening than it is of telling and pleading.

Also relevant is the recent OCLC membership report From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America.

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