The reality is that libraries have always played an integral role in communities, educating, entertaining, and bringing people together. Libraries represent a community’s commitment not only to knowledge, but to making knowledge accessible. Because of this, libraries may be transforming, but they certainly are not disappearing.
For evidence, look to western Montrose County, where the Naturita Library is working tirelessly to meet the needs of its community. The Library is more than a place to find a book; it is a community resource that acts as a portal to connect residents to the world outside, and facilitates deeper connections within the tight-knit community itself.
In 2009, with help from a $25,000 capital grant from El Pomar Foundation, the Montrose Library District built the first hay bale library in the United States in Naturita. The beautiful structure acts as a home base for innovative programs that bring a wealth of opportunity to the little town. Here are just a few examples that show how the library is serving its community:
- During the 2011-2012 school year, the library staff created a program for elementary students called “No Child Left Inside.” This afterschool science and nature program provided 4th and 5th graders the opportunity to explore the outdoors through activities including sledding, animal tracking, and trail clean-ups. At the culminating hotdog roast, a ten-year-old participant said gleefully, “This is the most fun I’ve had in my whole life.”
- In 2012, 97 children participated in the Library’s summer reading program and at least 60 engaged in the activities offered on a weekly basis. This is particularly impressive given the fact that the 2010 census reports only 134 children under 18 live in Naturita. Wednesdays featured three stations: outdoor play, indoor craft, and a storytime built around a weekly theme. The teaching landscape offered kids the opportunity to tend the Library’s garden beds, producing baskets of vegetables that library patrons could take home with them.
Through the many programs offered at the library, kids are exposed to the joy of learning and the pursuit of knowledge. Parents are able to commute to work with the peace of mind knowing that their children are not only safe, are thriving.
This small but might library hasn’t gone unnoticed. In November of this year, the Naturita Library received the Medal of Honor for museum and library service, the highest national honor for libraries. Congratulations, Naturita Library, and thank you for the incredible work you are doing for the people of your community!
75th Anniversary Fast Fact: El Pomar Foundation's first grant to support a library was made in 1960. Since then, El Pomar has made 150 grants to support libraries in 37 Colorado counties, totaling nearly $3.5 million.