A Guide to Wyoming’s Carnegie Libraries

Mar 17, 2020

Linda Waggener

Linda Waggener, a Senior Library Assistant at the University of Wyoming Libraries, has put together a fantastic new historical resource, the Wyoming Carnegie Libraries Subject Guide: Sources of Information to the State’s 16 Carnegie Libraries. The subject guide includes:

  • A Brief Overview of Carnegie Libraries
  • Information on each of the State’s 16 Carnegie Libraries
  • Archives – Collections, Photographs, and Digital Collections
  • Alliance for Historic Wyoming – “Cowboy Carnegies”
  • Bibliographic Sources
  • Local and State Resources

Librarians and researchers are sure to discover something new in the subject guide. It is a valuable tool for public libraries, academic libraries, and archives for their staff and patrons who are interested in learning more about every one of Wyoming’s 16 Carnegie Libraries. It includes resources to find additional information and photographs of the exteriors and some interiors of the libraries.

[su_quote]This is essentially a range live-stock country, in which men are constantly going to and coming from town. A Carnegie library here would benefit a class that are seldom benefitted by such institution, and would afford a quiet, wholesome and instructive resort of character that are too scarce in these western range towns.

Casper – June 12, 1905 letter from Mayor Wilson S. Kimball


Linda works at UW Libraries in the Interlibrary Loan department. She’s a fifth-generation Wyomingite and two-time cancer survivor who grew up in Green River and began her library career in high school as a page at the Sweetwater County Library. She earned her M.S. in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in Boston (now Simmons University) in January 1991 and worked as a reference librarian at the Natrona County Public Library and then with the Fort Worth Public Library.

A page from the subject guide showing the Carnegie Library in Basin, Wyoming.

In December 2019, she graduated with an M.A. in American Studies from UW. Her nine years of research went into the Wyoming Carnegie Libraries Subject Guide.

When Linda began the American Studies program in 2011, she was looking for a thesis topic that would involve both Wyoming and libraries. “Since the Green River Carnegie library became my favorite pastime, it was the perfect topic,” she said. “While doing the initial research, I discovered that I would have to narrow the topic down, and then decided to look at the Wyoming Carnegie Libraries on the Union Pacific Corridor.”

The project was not without its obstacles. She worked full-time while taking one class per semester, keeping up that schedule even when in March 2015, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent six rounds of chemotherapy. In August 2018, her father passed away and then in April 2019, she was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer that was unrelated to her first cancer.

“At this point, I contacted my committee chair, and said I was bound and determined to complete this.” Instead of a thesis, she wrote a Plan B paper on the “Wyoming Carnegie Libraries and Their Importance in the Public Sector.” After finishing six rounds of chemotherapy in August, she had her defense in September.

Afterward, she met with her full committee. “Since they knew I had done quite a bit of research on the Wyoming Carnegie Libraries, they suggested I create a document that would include all my research and share that document with libraries throughout the state. Since, I hadn’t done anything like this before, I met with the UW Instructional Design Librarian to come up with a suitable design. We decided that a subject guide would be my best bet.”

She spent September to December writing and creating both the paper and the guide, and managed to complete them before starting the next round of chemo in December.

For her project, Linda used the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, since they are the repository for the Carnegie Corporation of New York Records. She spent time conducting research at the American Heritage Center, the Wyoming State Archives and the Wyoming State Library. She conducted site visits or contacted public libraries and local/county museums in the towns that had received a Carnegie Building Grant for additional information and photographs. She also viewed the digital newspapers available through the Wyoming Newspapers database and did article searches through various databases.

[su_quote]I take the liberty of calling your attention to the town of Rock Springs, Wyoming, which now has a population of over five thousand people made up largely of miners, and addition to that, clerks, many of whom are single, and have no place to spend their evenings, except in Public Places, particularly saloons or dance halls, where they are exposed to the drink habit more than is the best for them.

Rock Springs – March 13, 1907 letter from R. Harvey Reed


The biggest discovery she made “was the amount of support that each community gave for the Carnegie Library. In many cases this was the first library in its own building. The Carnegie Library became an important part of the public sector by providing not only books, newspapers and periodicals, but also a place for holding meetings and community events. The correspondence from the community leaders promoted the town to the fullest extent. They spoke about the importance of the railroad and the mining industry. They spoke about the citizens.”

Linda hopes the subject guide will be used to help librarians and researchers locate resources on the Wyoming Carnegie Libraries and also to learn more on the history of public libraries in the state. “Hopefully they’ll discover new material and be able to read the correspondence between community officials and citizens to Andrew Carnegie and James Bertram.”

View and download the guide from the Wyoming State Publications database. You may also email Linda directly at lwaggen1@uwyo.edu to request a copy of the PDF.

If you have a question about this or any other article, please contact us at statelibrary@wyo.gov

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