This past week an individual came into the Library, walked right up to the front desk, and excitedly remarked, “Is this an original Carnegie Library?” I responded (as I often do), “Why yes, feel free to look around and make sure you wander upstairs and look at the original library space.” Off he went.
This occurrence is commonplace in our beautiful library. Upon visiting Lewistown, sightseers quickly spot the impressive stonework our Library boasts and speak of it as a testament to Lewistown craftsmanship. Our exterior beckons visitors to come in and meander the stacks between Tolkien and Tennyson, Box and Bryson. Each nook within our impressive walls offers a new avenue for adventure and information. Slowly, our out-of-town guests make their way up the winding stairs and experience a moment of time-travel. They are in the exact space built to honor humanities best intentions over one-hundred years ago by forward thinking Fergus County and Lewistown citizens. True, the metal bookshelves that once held the tomes of times past are now downstairs and the antique oaken floors are protectively covered; but beyond these measures, the space remains relatively unchanged. Intricate detail, meticulously carved into the woodwork, still stands. A quiet hush ushers guests into a moment of stillness and allows time for memory. A timeless institution, that is what we Libraries are.
But back to my recent experience. The gentleman found his way back to the front desk about a half-an-hour later and stopped to share a moment of gratitude for the unguided tour into the past. He was thankful and after a moment of retrospection he noted, “I live in a town with a Carnegie Library, haven’t been in that place for years. You know, it’s a shame. It seems like the closer you are to something, the less likely it is you will visit.” And off the traveler went. It was a moment that took my breath away. Sometimes it takes a stranger to point out the most obvious thing. It’s budget time in library land and I am constantly challenged with capturing the value of our library into mere verbiage. So, taking a cue from our recent visitor I offer this as the value of our Lewistown Public Library. We are the place around the corner that comforts and welcomes you, a place that holds your history and adventure, a place of free and equitable access to information, a place woven into the fabric of Central Montana life, and a place not soon forgotten.