Dave Simpson: The Best Darned Library In Wyoming

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

It had all the markings of a slam-dunk.

A no-brainer. A stick-a-fork-in-the-competition deal.

Last week I read a story in Cowboy State Daily by Wendy Corr about a couple basing their decision where to retire in Wyoming on the quality of the local library.

In my nomadic newspaper career, the local library has always been a wellspring of quotes and information, a quiet place to reflect, and a how-to cornucopia for the do-it-your-selfer.

Whether it was the library in Craig, Colo., where I looked up quotes before I got my own “Bartlett’s Quotations,” or the library in Rawlins, where the kindly librarian made sure I got to read “The Right Stuff” as soon as it arrived, or the library in Illinois that sent me my library card before I even arrived in town –  the local library has always been a blessed refuge.

I’ve seen some good ones. I dropped into the library in Laramie years back to find my favorite bread recipe on my way to the cabin. (One of the librarians there was in my freshman English class at UW – is this a great state, or what?) And I used to file columns from the neat library in Saratoga.

The article about the couple deciding where to retire revealed a bunch of unique libraries and friendly librarians all over the state. It’s enough to spark a road trip.

The slam-dunk, however, the sure-thing no-brainer when it comes to great libraries in Wyoming, is here in Cheyenne. Trust me on this, folks.

When we returned to Wyoming in 2006, we decided on Cheyenne because of its proximity to the cabin, to Denver International Airport, and the great employment opportunities in health care for my wife. We struck gold with the local library, which I figured would be a several-times-a-week stop in my dotage. The former library was excellent. Then they built the new one, which is spectacular.

With three floors – first floor fiction, second floor children’s, third floor non-fiction – it’s a library lover’s dream. I can walk in the door not knowing what I want to read, and invariably come away with something excellent – usually two or three books –  from the new non-fiction shelves near the door.

For example, I didn’t come looking for a book on sheep ranching, but walked out with “The Woolly West, Colorado’s Hidden History of Sheepscapes,” by Andrew Gulliford.

Did you know there’s something called an “arborglyph?” Sheep herders carved their names and lonesome messages in aspen trees, and many can still be seen. It told the history of the sheep business here, and I recognized the names of longtime sheep ranching families from my years in Craig. Good read.

They almost always have the latest political books, both liberal and conservative. In one book by a Republican, I found a helpful note from a previous reader warning, “This is a dangerous book,” then saying something nasty about Trump. (Probably the same guy who parks out front with the bumper sticker that says, “Turn off Fox News.”)

They even have Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s controversial (and excellent) book, “The Real Anthony Fauci,” but you have to look for it.

Cheyenne took some lumps for tearing down its Carnegie library, but I once lived in a town in Illinois with a restored Carnegie library, but with a sparse collection of books. Architecture is great, but when I go to the library I want a book. Our library meets that challenge with flying colors.

They’re kind of woke at the Cheyenne library, encouraging you to ride a bike, and proud of their water-less urinals (kind of smelly), and they have a whole row in the parking lot reserved for car poolers. How does that work? Who finishes their book the same day I do, and how do I find that person to hitch a ride with? I say reserve those close-in spaces for geezers like me.

All in all, however, I don’t think there’s a library in Wyoming that can hold a candle to ours.

I hope that couple looking for a great library town will give our Laramie County Library careful consideration.

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