On February 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Cottonwood Room, Laramie County Library will host Laramie County Community College history instructor Mary Ludwig as she presents “The Exodusters: Black History in the West,” a powerful presentation that will detail the harrowing 1879 migration of over 15,000 black men, women, and children as they sought new opportunities in western states. Among the stories featured is that of Barney Ford, an African-American who helped establish the Inter Ocean Hotel in Cheyenne.
This event is an exploration of this year’s Black History Month theme, Black Migrations, which, according to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, “emphasizes the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and subsequently to new social realities.” The Exodusters were the first mass migration of black peoples in America since the Civil War, and their western communities proved to be pivotal models of pioneer spirit in the burgeoning frontier.
Sheridan’s Best-Kept Secret: The Library’s Wyoming Room
By Mary Ellen McWilliams Used with permission of the Sheridan Press. Part 1 of 3: read Part 2 and Part 3 on the Sheridan Press website.
Many folks are somewhat familiar with The Wyoming Room at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library. Only a few, however, have more than a cursory knowledge of the treasures tucked away, out of sight, in its many file cabinets, drawers, shelves and storage areas. These contain a remarkable wealth of information, primarily relative to Sheridan County, regional and state history.
The extension was planned by then library director Alice Meister and The Wyoming Room’s first director, the late Helen Graham. Author-historian David McCullough, a man with no lack for words, written or spoken, gave the opening presentation Nov. 11, 1986.
The room would store, and make available to the public birth, marriage, cemetery, and early arrest records, city directories and town hall minutes. Graham established obituary files, not generally found in community libraries. A local educator, the late Charlie Popovich, provided the room with extensive school records. The Civic Theatre Guild, the Hospital Auxiliary and many others, brought in their organizations’ materials.
Shelves are full of publications going years back. They include Annals of Wyoming, Wyoming Archaeologist, the Montana Magazine of Western History, Wyoming Wildlife, and many others.
Graham welcomed the meticulous work of volunteer Deck Hunter in identifying all the early Sheridan County homesteaders and mapping their claims. These, along with the Sandorn maps, tracking the city’s development, are housed in an adjoining room.
An extensive genealogical collection fills many shelves and includes years of research on the emigrants into the early mining camps in the county, “World War I Yearbooks,” “The Lineage book of the DAR” and “Colonial Families in the U.S.” The collection makes a fine supplement to the ancestry information available today on the internet.
The Sheridan County Extension Homemaker’s publication of the Sheridan County Heritage Book contains more than 200 family histories plus features on towns, businesses, schools, organizations and institutions as well as brands and land patents. There is a like publication from the Clearmont, Ulm and Leiter area, Vie Willits Garber’s Big Horn Pioneers, and Charlie Rawlins’ history of the Dayton-Ranchester area, In Our Neck of the Woods.
Fifty-eight years ago, Myrna “Mac” Grimm, a member of the fledgling Sheridan County Historical Society, began keeping scrapbooks of our history and recently she brought in her last, the 19th large binder, to the library. They include a wealth of clippings, photos, minutes of meetings, and much more.
Major Sheridan County newspapers from the original issues to today’s Sheridan Press are either digitized or available in print, as are many of the KWYO radio scripts from announcers Bob Wilson and Dr. William Frackelton. Many thousands of photographs are available including in collections of Don Diers, Elsa Spear Byron, George Ostrum, Herb Coffeen, Peggy Cooksley, Dick Lenz and, one just recently arrived, from Ike Fordyce.
Several hundred personal interviews are recorded and on file, including the early Robert A. Helvey taped interviews. These include interviews with Hans Kleiber, Marjorie Masters, Don King, Joe Medicine Crow, Dee Brown, Floyd Bard, and Cheyenne Chief Little Wolf’s daughter, Lydia Wild Hog. Many special collections, such as those for All American Indian Days and Miss Indian America, and the Elsa Spear Byron materials, photos and diaries, are available for research.
Dozens of drawers include alphabetized files on individuals, families, businesses, organizations, towns, places, and events. Thousands of library cards are available to help authors, visitors, and researchers locate what information they wish. Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum board member Helen Laumann has used the collections to gather information for more than 50 programs, titled “Conversations in History,” given at The Hub over the past six years and repeated in many other locations.
Helen Graham retired in 2000, after 32 years with the library and 14 with The Wyoming Room. Her work earned her the State Historical Society’s highest honor, the Cumulative Award for Lifetime Achievement in Western American History. She also won a Distinguished Service Award from the Wyoming Library Association, and a Sheridan County Historical Society Chapter award for her work in The Wyoming Room.
The room has had three managers since, with Karen Woinoski first taking the reins. Karen worked primarily on further cataloging the collections. During her time, staff member Jeanne Sanchez meticulously researched and identified the graves in the old cemetery at Carneyville.
Judy Slack and then Kim Ostermyer followed and their achievements will be addressed in Part II of this column. Thus, the work goes on and new and exciting discoveries never end. We ask the readers to watch for Part II, recognizing co-operative projects, donors, volunteers and further exploring a smattering of the many treasures tucked away and awaiting public enjoyment and use by authors, historians, program presenters, students and researchers worldwide.
Mary Ellen McWilliams serves as an adviser and volunteer for the Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum and the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association.
Award-Winning YA Author at Campbell County Library
Campbell County Public Library in Gillette will host an author visit from Jennifer Nielsen, the award-winning author of A Night Divided, a young adult novel about the construction of the Berlin Wall. Among its honors, A Night Divided won the Wyoming Library Association’s 2017 Indian Paintbrush Award.
Jennifer Nielsen writes both fantasy and historical fiction novels for youth and teens. Her most recent historical fiction novel, Resistance (Scholastic, 2018) details the experiences of teens who worked for various resistance efforts during the rise of Nazi Germany.
Nielsen will be visiting 8th grade classes in the Campbell County school district on February 20-22 to speak about Resistance in preparation for their 8th grade Holocaust unit and research project. On Friday evening, February 22, at 6:30 pm, Nielsen will give a public presentation about the history behind both A Night Divided and Resistance.
Nielsen’s visit is made possible by the Campbell County Library Foundation, LLC, and a Campbell County Community Public Recreation District grant.
Exciting things are happening at Converse County Library, kicking off today, February 11, during their self-declared “Celebration for Library Lovers.” First off, they are going fine free! As of today they’ll no longer assess fines for overdue books. The new logo (above) debuts today, as well as a brand new library website at www.yourccl.org.
“Our board believes that removing barriers and increasing access for all readers is a priority,” said Library Director Cindy Moore. “We don’t like to see good readers and great library users feel discouraged about using the library because of fines.”
Converse County Library is joining a consortium of libraries by adding Overdrive to the rich selection of databases already provided by the state. The state offers Cloud Library, RB Digital and RB digital magazines which are used frequently. Overdrive provides another option for ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, digital magazines, and videos.
The library is also adding mobile HotSpots to the circulation catalog. “Converse County is a rural community with many outlying ranches, work sites, and small communities,” Cindy said. “We hope that by adding HotSpots, library users will be able to access the Internet where it’s needed to bridge the digital divide in our county.”
During this Library Lovers’ Week, they’ll highlight different aspects of library services — Tuesday will show off teen services, Wednesday’s feature is juvenile services, and offerings for adults will be all week long. They’ll have computers set up with some tech help for the new library app, Overdrive and our new website or anything patrons may need assistance with. On Thursday and Friday refreshements will be served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Saturday we will have our Annual Chocolate Festival. If you’re a Converse County resident, stop by and see all the reasons to love your library!
On January 15, a superhero visited the Laramie County Library. He didn’t have a cape, a mask, or flashy tights and he walked in through the front doors rather than flying through a window or crashing through a wall. He didn’t display any spidey senses, super-speed, or unworldly strength, but he did wear one indication of his superpowers: a beautifully beaded pendant hanging around his neck. The intricate array of vivid and delicate beads formed a bright superhero emblem that was part Superman symbol and part Flash sign. With his dark framed glasses and light brown blazer, Lee Francis IV appeared to be somewhat of a Clark Kent figure: subtle in appearance, but with an air that was undeniably super.
In fact, Lee Francis IV has many superpowers. He’s an educator with over 15 years’ experience in the classroom, a business owner who runs his own bookstore named Red Planet Books and Comics and printing press named Native Realities, a comic book creator, a founder of Indigenous Comic Con, an activist, a poet, a writer, and a speaker. As a member of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe, Lee Francis IV is also a powerful advocate for Indigenous peoples and their right to be represented accurately in pop culture.
His ability to tell stories, however, may be his strongest superpower. He weaves entrancing tales that enrapture audiences and change their perceptions of Native American representations in the past, present and future, and he came to the Laramie County Library to do just that.
On January 15, Lee Francis IV gave a presentation about storytelling, during which he outlined the historical representations of Native Americans. He fit them into four chronological categories: the noble savage, the vanishing Indian, the red devil, and the tragic chief or neo-noble savage. Utilizing examples from paintings, books, television shows, photographs, and movies, he illustrated how these essentialized representations of Native Americans were damaging to the psyches of individuals in the community. He said that many of these images “reinforced the idea that Native Americans were a historical relic,” and that because of these images, indigenous peoples were often “stripped of imagination of what they could be.”
After detailing the harmful representations of the past, Lee Francis IV moved into the future and changed the narrative, revealing his awe-inspiring superpowers in the process. Imbuing every claim with a resounding optimism, he talked about the next stage of Native American representations, calling it “Indigenous Futurisms.” He began to tell the crowd about all of the comic books, video games, movies, television shows, and artwork that present Native Americans as the dynamic, diverse, modern, and powerful heroes they are: heroes whose impact expand far beyond the reservation. He spoke about Navajo code talkers, empowered Native women, and Indigenous superheroes created by people like Jon Proudstar who realized that there was no contemporary hero saving children like his own on the reservations.
Lee Francis IV stated that the beautiful part about storytelling is its ability to create empathy, build bridges, and impact communities. He said that Native American tradition should not be left in the past, but rather carried into the future like a backpack, where it can be used in a contemporary context. He then asked the fixated audience if they were heroes and asked how they told their own stories. He implored them to think of the power stories have to change the world.
So, while he may not be able to travel back in time, he is able to look back and analyze the harmful misrepresentations of native people from the past. While he may not be able to jump over buildings in a single leap, he is able to make leaps in the way Native people are represented in the media. And while he may not be able to read minds, he is able to captivate an entire room of people and make them think differently about Native American stereotypes.
Like any superhero tale, he ended his presentation with hope, stating, “I hope that you’ve had fun, I hope I’ve sparked your imagination, and I hope I’ve unleashed your Indigenous Imagination.” The crowd stood and applauded him, and for a moment it seemed like he would don a cape and fly off the stage like the superhero he is.
A few years ago, the Laramie County Library System staff started a discussion on how we could draw attention to books, movies and CD’s in the collection that had a Wyoming connection. We wanted to denote materials that were written or produced by Wyoming authors or artists as well as those that had a Wyoming setting.
It turned out to be an involved and time-consuming project. In fact, it took a while to even come up with a logo. The classic bucking bronc image is trademarked, and printing in traditional brown and gold would be expensive, so we went with the simple “WYO” in black ink on a beige background. We had to keep the cost down because we knew we would need a lot of stickers. For all our small population, Wyoming residents are a creative bunch. Right now there are over fifty authors on the master Wyoming author list, with more being added all the time. There are also a number of Wyoming musicians whose recordings the library owns.
The list of Wyoming authors ranges from Owen Wister, whose classic western, The Virginian, was published in 1902, to current bestselling mystery authors C.J. Box and Craig Johnson. In between are such notable Wyoming writers as Kathleen and W. Michael Gear, whose long-running Native American historical fiction series has received international attention. And then there’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Annie Proulx, whose novella Brokeback Mountain was the basis for the acclaimed film of the same title.
Other Wyoming authors who are less well-known but who have still built strong followings include mystery writer Curt Wendelboe, inspirational romance author Amanda Cabot, cowboy romance author Joanne Kennedy and rising literary star Alison Hagy, of which her book Boleto, the New York Times Book Review wrote: “…her settings glimmer with well-chosen metaphors.” Wendelboe, Cabot and Kennedy live in or near Cheyenne and Hagy is a Laramie resident.
If keeping track of Wyoming authors is difficult, tracking books with a Wyoming settings is even harder. Because of our scenic beauty, challenging environment and reputation for rugged individualism, Wyoming seems to have a great appeal for fiction writers. Well-known writers who have set novels in Wyoming include thriller writer Lee Child, prolific women’s fiction and suspense author Nora Roberts, and acclaimed mystery writer William Kent Krueger.
The library owns multiple copies of many of these authors’ works and since every copy of every title needs a sticker, it really adds up. And we’re doing this for not only print versions, but audio copies as well. Some of these authors have two or more books out every year, and we also have to purchase replacement copies. And I haven’t even mentioned all the non-fiction and children’s titles included in the project. For example, western Wyoming author Cat Urbigkit has written several children’s books, many of which feature Wyoming settings.
Wyoming has a rich literary history, staggeringly so for such a thinly populated state. Something about this place seems to draw and inspire creative individuals, and it has for decades. Ernest Hemingway was a frequent visitor to the state and wrote much of his acclaimed World War I novel A Farewell to Arms in a cabin near Sheridan. He was once quoted as saying, “There are two places I love: Africa and Wyoming.”
So keep an eye out for the WYO stickers when browsing the stacks and join us in celebrating Wyoming’s rich artistic tradition.
The Wyoming State Library will be closed Monday, January 21, for Martin Luther King Jr., Wyoming Equality Day. We will resume our regular hours on Tuesday, January 22.
In 1973, Wyoming State Representatives Rodger McDaniel, Chuck Morrison, and Elizabeth Phelan introduced a House Bill 373 proposing a “Holiday honoring Martin Luther King.” The bill died in committee that year. It wasn’t until 1990 that the third Monday in January was designated as a state holiday (1990 Session Laws, Chapter 21).
As you may have noticed, the Laramie County Library System has a brand new sort machine. All operations are running smoothly, and the new system has already started clocking some serious hours! We were curious about sort machines and the people who install them, so we asked Jonathan Michael of Lyngsoe Systems (the company who produced and installed our new sort system) all about it!
Jonathan Michael is a Field Service Technician for Lyngsoe Systems, a job that usually requires a degree in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering. While the company has different branches that install sort systems for airports, hospitals, and postal operations, Jonathan only installs library sort machines. He usually works as a one-man team, installing hardware, finagling with the software, and running final tests on all of the equipment. He has worked for Lyngsoe Systems for almost two years, and in that time he says he has visited over 100 libraries! He has been from Maine to Alaska and nearly every state in between to install sort systems of all different shapes and sizes.
Each sort system looks and works differently based on a library’s needs. Here at the Laramie County Library, our item returns, named Library Mates™, feed directly into our sort machine, but in other libraries the books need to travel great distances to reach the sort system. In some libraries, books travel to basements, while in others books travel along ceilings into different rooms.
Jonathan told us one of the coolest libraries he has visited is a public library in Anchorage Alaska, where he installed over 100 feet of conveyor belt (for reference our sort machine has about 15 feet of conveyor belt) behind earthquake-proof glass that withstands seismic activity. The system can be seen behind the glass, and carries books up along the ceiling by pinching them between the tracks.
Jonathan says he loves installing library sort machines, and has visited Wyoming to work on the Laramie County Library’s sort machine three or four times. According to Jonathan, one of the best parts of his job is that, “everyone is always happy when they see me. Whether I’m arriving to fix or install a sort machine or I’m leaving because I’ve completed the work, everyone is always glad to see me come and go.”
We were certainly happy to see Jonathan arrive to install the new system and happy to see him depart with a new and improved machine in place, and while we were intrigued to hear about all the libraries he has visited and all the machines he has worked on, we have to say that we are partial to our sort system here at the Laramie County Library.
Even in 2018, resources aren’t equitably available to everyone. The library levels the playing field. We offer resources and personal connection to everyone, every age, every demographic. You don’t even have to be a Natrona County or Wyoming resident to use the Library. In fact, our economy and tourism industry benefit from the services we provide visitors. People passing through Casper may stop in to browse, read the newspaper, check their email, print travel passes, get out of the elements, or a number of other reasons.
Here a just a few highlights you may not know are available to you.
The bookmobile is available for everyone to use. If you see it stopped in neighborhood or at a community event, feel free to hop aboard.
Books by Mail
You don’t have to be able to walk through the Library doors to access materials. The books by mail service is designed specifically for Natrona County residents who are homebound, temporarily or long term. Request the items you need, and the library mails them to you. Simply mail them back, with the paid postage, when you finish.
We’ve all been there. The last user didn’t bring it back. It didn’t survive past the 100th checkout and is no longer available for purchase. It’s specific and difficult to find. Well, the good news is you aren’t limited to the items available in this facility. Our interlibrary loan specialist can borrow items from other libraries in Wyoming and across the United States to fill your need.
Personalized Book Selections
Are you finding yourself not knowing what to read next? Maybe the book you’re after isn’t currently available for checkout? Library staff are skilled at guiding you to find that next perfect book. Just ask! Love at first read may not happen on the initial suggestion, but keep coming back and we’ll keep recommending.
It’s Your Library
The Library belongs to the residents of Natrona County. In order for the library to feel like yours, it needs to include the materials you want to read, watch, play, or listen to. If you’ve searched the shelves and the catalog and it doesn’t appear the library has your item, make sure you place a request. The library will do our best to find that perfect item as quickly as possible and you’ll be contacted when it arrives.
Library staff may not be experts in everything, but we can help you find or become the expert you need.
Jenn Beckstead is the Teen Librarian at the Natrona County Library. Check with your local library to learn about the full breadth of services offered in your community.
LCLS’s Library for All is tailored specifically for adult patrons with disabilities. Activities usually include a LEGO® build.
On December 11, the Laramie County Library will run a special Library for All event with a Christmas-themed puppet show put on by award-winning ventriloquist Meghan Casey of Rocky Mountain Puppets.
Library for All is a program that is catered specifically to adults with disabilities. Laramie County began offering it as a regular program in December 2017. Held the second Tuesday of each month from September through May, Library for All usually includes a craft, science demo, and LEGO® build. During previous programs, participants have created candle holders, periscopes, tie-dyed pillowcases, and more all while enjoying science demonstrations from Kurt Hinaman that explore everything from what brand of soda reacts best with Mentos to how paper airplanes fly in a wind tunnel.
This program is designed to ensure that every member of the Laramie County community has the opportunity to enjoy library events, making it a library that truly is for all.
The December 11 event will be held at 11:00 a.m. in the Cheyenne library’s Cottonwood Room with popcorn and sugar-free hot chocolate for attendees to enjoy.