All posts by Jessica Otto

Black History Month: Empire, Wyoming



A snippet from the front page of the December 9, 1909 issue of the Torrington Telegraph. Sally Thistle, J. W. Speese, and O. R. Taylor were prominent residents of Empire.

In honor of Black History Month, we’re taking a look at Empire, Wyoming, the first entirely African-American community in the Equality State. While the town has faded into history along with many of its wild west counterparts, the impact of its community members was revolutionary. Empire began in Goshen County near present-day Torrington, Wyoming, in 1908. Encouraged to travel west by the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909, the town was founded by African-American families seeking a racially self-sufficient and politically autonomous community. Communities like Empire could also be found in other western states, but it was the only one of its kind in Wyoming.

The town had its own postal services, two churches, a schoolhouse, and at its peak boasted 36 families, according to the 1910 census. Prominent residents of the community include Russell Taylor, an ordained Presbyterian minister and cofounder of Empire; Sally Thistle, a local teacher; and the Speese family, who cofounded the town with the Taylor family. Empire Post Office was established on April 10, 1912 and operated until August 14, 1920. Laws in Wyoming during this time required schools to segregate their students if there were more than 15 non-white students, and thanks to Taylor, Empire used this to its advantage by having its own entirely African-American student population within their town rather than having to send students to the school in Torrington ten miles away. The Empire school hired an African-American teacher, Sally Thistle, and Taylor also taught at the school for many years. (In the newspaper clipping pictured from 1909, Miss Thistle of the Sheep Creek school was said to be “proving to be a good instructor to the pupils.”)

By the 1920s, Empire was fading away due to harsh farming conditions, racial tensions, and community isolation. Today, travelers can “visit” Empire, Wyoming at the Sheep Creek Cemetery just a mile over the Nebraska stateline, or via the Wyoming Places Database.

Want to learn more about Wyoming’s Empire?

Making a Home in Empire, Wyo. by WyoHistory.org

Empire, Wyoming by the Alliance for History Wyoming

Empire Wyoming | Homestead National Historical Park by the National Park Service

Webinar: Getting Started With Ancestry Library



ProQuest Ancestry logoLooking for tips on how to get started using Ancestry Library Edition for family research? This is the session for you! This 30-minute webinar will provide tips for getting started with genealogy. ProQuest will review the content included in Ancestry Library Edition as well as some tips on searching. This session is appropriate for beginners – both librarians looking to help patrons and library patrons who want to use the library edition of this popular family research tool.

Getting Started With Ancestry Library Edition:

In response to the pandemic, ProQuest has made Ancestry Library Edition available for home use with a Wyoming library card and PIN through March 31, 2021. As of April 1, Ancestry will only be available for in-library use.

Ancestry Library Edition is one of several genealogy resources available in GoWYLD.net. Questions about the GoWYLD databases? Contact your local library for assistance, or contact Chris Van Burgh, Wyoming State Library Database Instruction Librarian, at chris.vanburgh@wyo.gov.

ALA Resources for 2020 Census During COVID-19



The American Library Association (ALA) has released a new publication, “Libraries and the 2020 Census: Adapting Outreach in Response to COVID-19” and has announced a free webinar for library staff, “2020 Census: Last Chance for a Complete Count,” to be held on July 8, 2020, at 12:00 p.m. MDT.

Libraries are essential partners in achieving a complete count in the 2020 Census. In response to COVID-19, the Census Bureau and libraries delayed and adjusted 2020 Census operations and awareness activities. The four-page tip sheet and upcoming webinar will explain those changes and highlight opportunities for libraries to adapt census outreach activities.

Webinar presenters will include Slone T. Williams from the Cobb County (Ga.) Public Library, Lizette Escobedo from the NALEO Educational Fund, Burton Reist from the U.S. Census Bureau, and Gavin Baker from ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy office.

The webinar will be offered at no cost to attendees and is presented by ALA’s Public Policy & Advocacy office; the Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services; and the Public Library Association. Registration is required. For more information on ALA’s efforts to support a fair, inclusive and complete count in the 2020 Census, visit ala.org/census. To connect on social media, follow #CountOnLibraries.

Wyoming is currently at a 55.5% self-response rate, still below the national average. The Wyoming State Library’s LSTA funds (averaging nearly $900,000 per year in recent years) are based on census numbers. Undercounting communities leaves an impact on libraries, schools, roads, hospitals, and opportunities for years to come. Click here for more information on how to help us achieve a Complete Count.

Nominate a Library Aide for RISE Award



Wyoming library aides qualify to be nominated for the 2020 Wyoming Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award hosted by Governor Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Department of Education. This award honors classified school employeess who provide exemplary service.

Nominate an outstanding library aide or other school employee by June 30, 2020. Nominees can be an employee who works in any grade K-12 as a paraprofessional, in technical services, skilled trades, and more. See the nomination form for details.

The top two Wyoming applicants will be forwarded to USED by November 1, 2020. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will select a single classified school employee from among the nominees to receive the RISE Award by the spring of 2021. Governor Gordon will honor nominees and finalists. In addition, the USED will recognize the honoree and communicate his or her story in order to inspire excellence among classified school employees.

NatGeo Kids Database Access Ends on June 30



Wyoming’s statewide access to the National Geographic Kids database will end on June 30, 2020.

After much consideration, the Shared Purchases Committee has recommended ceasing renewal of the National Geographic Kids database subscription due to a drop in usage in recent years. The Shared Purchases Committee is looking at new resources to fill this gap in K-12 literacy resources. For now, you can find current and past issues of National Geographic Kids and National Geographic Little Kids magazines through RBDigital Magazines on the GoWYLD.net page. Please know that the Wyoming State Library and the Shared Purchases Committee continue to evaluate resources in order to bring the best to Wyoming.

Access is still available for all Wyoming residents with a valid library card through the month of June. Get the most out of NatGeo Kids’s remaining time by watching the GoWYLD Database Tutorial. For kids ages 6-14, NatGeo Kids includes books and magazines (every page, every issue), videos, and pictures. Explore topics such as animals, the environment, people and cultures, history, science and tech, and places before this resource goes away.

WLA School Library Interest Group receives AASL Grant



From the American Library Association

The Wyoming Library Association School Library Interest Group (WLA-SLIG) has been named one of four recipients of the 2020 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Past-Presidents Planning Grant for National School Library Standards. The $2,500 grants, awarded in honor of AASL past presidents, are presented annually to AASL Chapters for the planning and execution of an event, initiative, or activity focused on the implementation of AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. WLA-SLIG is the recipient of the planning grant awarded in honor of Sharon Coatney and sponsored by Edward M. and Helen R. Adams.

“The WLA-SIG will hold regional training sessions to introduce the AASL Standards to library staff serving in remote parts of the state,” said AASL President Mary Keeling. “Monthly coaching and discussion using teleconferencing technology will follow. This plan continues the excellent work begun in 2018 by Jennison Lucas. It is notable that administrators and paraprofessionals will be invited to attend as they will gain an expanded awareness of the importance of the modern school librarian’s role in education. I’m especially impressed with the consistent messaging and persistent attention given to reaching all of Wyoming’s school library staff.”

“The Wyoming proposal will work to equalize understanding and implementation of the AASL Standards statewide,” said Dorcas Hand, grant committee chair. “The several regional workshops will bring the content to school librarians who, because of distance, have been unable to attend the state conference. Each workshop will be tailored to support maximum implementation of the standards using all the tools the AASL Standards teams has devised. The committee loved how Wyoming school library leadership worked to build a training program that was not a cookie cutter for every district, but rather focused on local needs in order to achieve the strongest possible results. The monthly online follow-up meetings will continue to support librarians new to these ideas.”

“AASL works with its chapters to activate leadership within the school library community and to influence educational policy and funding for school libraries at the local, state, and national levels,” said AASL President Mary Keeling. “We are pleased to offer planning grants honoring past presidents to help state chapters address their state librarians’ particular professional learning needs. This year’s grants demonstrate how the National School Library Standards can inspire strong school libraries in any context and serve as a frame for powerful messaging. I am delighted with the variety of plans receiving awards. Many thanks to AASL’s past presidents who continue to lead through their generous sponsorship of these awards, and congratulations to the grant recipients!”

The AASL award winners will be honored during a virtual AASL Awards Ceremony during the fall of 2020. The virtual ceremony will replace the live ceremony traditionally presented during the ALA Annual Conference. Out of concern for the health and safety of all members of the community, the ALA Executive Board felt it was important to cancel the 2020 conference taking place in Chicago. Details for the virtual ceremony will be shared as they are finalized.

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.

National Library Week Begins Sunday



National Library Week is next week, April 19-25. National Library Week is an annual celebration highlighting the valuable role libraries, librarians, and library workers play in transforming lives and strengthening our communities. The theme for the 2020 celebration was “Find Your Place at the Library,” but due to self-isolation and quarantine rules in place across the country to combat COVID-19, the American Library Association has made a brilliant switch to “Find the Library at Your Place.”

Despite current events — and even encouraged by current events — celebrating libraries is easy to do. Promote your library’s online and at-home resources with ALA’s free, updated promotional tools, including a list of “Ways to Celebrate National Library Week” to inspire you.

Whatever you come up with, we want to see it! Share your library’s National Library Week campaigns with the Wyoming State Library and the American Library Association. This is a great opportunity to highlight your library and its successes, so email campaign@ala.org and susan.mark@wyo.gov to share your story.

Celebrations during National Library Week include:

  • Monday, April 20: State of America’s Libraries Report released, including the Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2019.
  • Tuesday, April 21: National Library Workers Day, a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.
  • Wednesday, April 22: National Bookmobile Day, a day to recognize the contributions of our nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities.
  • Thursday, April 23: Take Action for Libraries Daya day to rally advocates to support libraries.

Stay tuned to the Wyoming State Library’s Twitter and Facebook pages for graphics to share with each of these events.

At-Home Resources for Citizen Historians, Librarians, and Archivists



Did you know April is Citizen Science Month? Science comes in all shapes and fields, including history, library science, and archives. You can celebrate discoveries, inspiration, and ground-breaking research right from your own home — check out the always-available resources below to jump in!

There are many opportunities for volunteers of all ages and experience levels to turn historical handwritten and printed documents into searchable digital resources. Something you transcribe or catalog might very easily be used by researchers all over the world. In this article, we’ve shared a few interesting virtual volunteering programs from museums, libraries, and schools around the world.

Foodies and history buffs collide in this unique collection from the New York Public Library. Grab a (virtual) historical menu and transcribe the text for clearer search results, while part-time philosophers can help transcribe the work of Jeremy Bentham, via the Bentham Project at University College London. According to the project’s website, “These transcripts will make it easier for anyone to access and read Bentham’s papers and will be used by scholars at the Bentham Project in the production of the edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham.”

Amateur archivists can help piece the past together by transcribing oral history recordings with the New York Public Library, peruse letters from everyday life during the 19th and 20th Centuries with Newberry Transcribe’s over 51,000 pages in need of transcription,  The Library of Congress is always looking for contributors to transcribe, tag, and review items in their many collections, and so is the National Archives continuously looking for citizen archivists.

From menus to manuscripts and everything in between — what does your citizen science look like?

 

At-Home Resources for Bookworms and Writers



Looking for something to do at home? As much as the Wyoming State Library loves reading and writing, we know it’s nice to have variety. Here we’ve gathered resources for bookworms and writers of all ages, including a Harry Potter-themed escape room, reading and writing challenges, virtual book clubs, author readings, internet conferences, and more.

Virtual Activities

Is your house starting to feel like a cupboard under the stairs? Sydney Krawiec, Youth Services Librarian at Peters Township Public Library in McMurray, Pennsylvania created a Hogwarts Digital Escape Room for individuals or groups to enjoy. When you’re done and find yourself wanting to create your own escape room, follow this guide.

If you’re a modern writer, you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month organization. You may have even heard of Camp NaNoWriMo, which occurs each year in April and July. Now, you can participate in StayHomeWriMo! According to the organization’s newest project, it’s “an initiative to support and encourage you to stay well and find comfort in creativity in these trying times.”

Bored of reading for fun or school and craving a bit of direction? Try the #Read20in20 Reading Challenge! Borrow.Read.Repeat describes their challenge as being “designed to help readers of all stripes — the occasional reader who wants to reach 20 books by the end of the year, the voracious reader who wants to read 20 books a month, the reader who wants to explore new genres, and the reader who wants new suggestions in a category he or she already loves.” You can even join the #Read20in20 Facebook Group to discuss the reads with fellow challengers.

Now is the perfect time to join a virtual book club. Tolstoy Together, Reese’s Book Club,and Dialogue Books are a few good examples of long-standing virtual groups, but you can find an online book club for just about any genre. If none of these clubs appeal to your tastes, invite your friends and family to start your own, then grab your library card and browse your Wyoming library’s RBDigital and cloudLibrary digital collections to get reading together!

Virtual Events

Catch up on all the YA social-distancing fun with this curated list by Epic Reads, including brand-new virtual content every Wednesday (on Twitter) and Friday (on Instagram).

Penguin Random House has compiled a list of virtual author Q&As, readings, and more. Tune in to online events to follow along live or visit this page to watch the finished recordings. Some of the on-going daily events include R. J. Palacio continuously reading her book Wonder each weekday on Twitter at 10 a.m. MDT, Rachel Cargle reading picture books each weekday on Instagram at 1 p.m. MDT, and 30 days of journal-writing prompts by Suleika Jaouad. Click here for this week’s compilation and calendar.

Other frequent online events include author live-streams from Denver’s Tattered Cover Bookstore, sonnets read by beloved actors, two upcoming virtual conferences — Wordplay and Virtual Con — for authors, readers, and writers.

Have you found a fun or educational at-home activity our libraries would want to know about? Comment below!

Census Day 2020



Save this image and share it with your patrons to spread the word!

Happy Census Day! April 1 marks the day every household in the country will have received an invitation to complete the 2020 Census by self-response. If you don’t have an invitation, you can still submit your information; your household can respond online now by providing your address. When you respond to the census, you’ll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.

You can complete the count without leaving your house or meeting a representative face-to-face! This is the first year the census is available online and the U.S. Census Bureau is strongly encouraging the public to respond to their census invitation virtually, but phone call and mail-in response options are also available. Click here to visit the official 2020 Census webpage on COVID-19.

Currently, Wyoming is almost 10% below the national self-response rate at a total of 28.1% of residents having submitted their census information. There is plenty of time to get these numbers up! Reach out to your communities with graphics provided by the Wyoming State Library and the U.S. Census Bureau to help advocate a #CompleteCount and remind them the census has never been easier, faster, or safer to complete. After you’ve spread the word, visit the live U.S. Census Bureau’s Response Rates map to watch our communities count.

Still not sure how the census applies to you? View the 2020 Census Community Benefits Toolkit to see why every person in every community should be counted, then share your support on social media with #WyomingCounts.