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Alone on the Range Library Project

The "Alone on the Range" library project is designed to provide basic library services to sheep camp tenders in Rio Blanco, Moffat, and Garfield counties in Northwestern Colorado. This mobile library would be in service only during the months of June, July, and August. In addition, the librarian would need to work May through September to prepare for and wrap up the library season, to develop promotional materials, and to promote this library service to the community.

Location: The library would be based in Rangely, Colorado.

Rangely is a small town of approximately 2100 people. A four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, and a five-hour drive from Denver, Rangely is a typical western community—small, remote and isolated, yet a source of support for those who live within range of it.

Living in a remote area means that all local institutions are pressed into service in non-traditional ways from time-to-time. Many hats are worn in an attempt to provide self-sufficiency. In this spirit, the public library has a history of supporting local projects. Isolation builds resourcefulness in people, meaning that to survive and take advantage of opportunities that come around, people develop a wide range of skills and abilities. Many would be eager to use these skill to be a librarian/courier—especially as it involves being outside, which is always a big plus here. Driving long distances for purposes of work is a given, so the thought of spending a day in a truck tracking down sheep camps would seem standard fare to many local residents. Most important, Rangely is centrally located in relation to the tri-county area this library seeks to serve.

Need: Determining the wants and needs of this library's patrons would be an initial focus. It is likely that literacy and social service materials would be of interest and use to some of the patrons. The cooperation of the ranchers would be crucial, as they know who, and where, the potential patrons are on a given day. A survey of ranchers could best determine the potential number of patrons, as well as the amount of interest the ranchers have in supporting this venture.

Funding: Funding would be needed to cover the costs of vehicle rental for four months, gas, insurance, cell phone, laptop computer, an emergency kit for vehicle, and a salary for one employee: a full-time position for four months, with only a part-time employee needed for the balance of the year. There may be costs to rent space to store materials from year to year.

The library is wired through the community college, and pays no fees for monthly dial-up service, but uses their T-1 connection. The college servers would host the website free of charge, as well.

This project could be funded through a grant from Chevron-Texaco, the largest extraction industry in the area. Here since 1947, Chevron, now Chevron-Texaco, has a long history of funding local projects. They have a special interest in supporting educational ventures, and provide, directly and indirectly, free tuition for all Rangely residents at the local college, Colorado Northwestern Community College.

Another primary industry is the Deserado Coal Mine. The Deserado Mine produces coal used to generate power. Many mine employees have family members in local ranching businesses, and would have a personal interest in supporting projects that enhance ranching in any way.

In addition, granting sources for small libraries, rural communities, and finite projects are available. The college has a grant writer, and the local librarian has grant writing experience, as well. Staff at regional library systems such as Three Rivers and Pathfinder regularly assist our small library in this area, giving guidance and direction toward getting funding for relevant projects. The Gates Foundation sponsors grants targeted at small communities such as this one. Rangely Public Library has been the recipient of a number of such grants already.

Initially, getting support for one year would be a reasonable way to test the viability of this library; knowing that it takes a while for new ideas to take root here, a three-year grant would be best.

Patrons: Although some of the tenders are native English speakers, few locals are still willing to take on these lonely positions. As a result, herders from the Basque region of Spain and from Peru are often hired for the season. Spanish is a second language for Basques, but a first language for Peruvians, making it the most likely language in which materials would need to be available. Materials in both Spanish and English would need to be available for patrons.

Some non-English speaking patrons will be interested in developing English language skills, and some may have poor reading skills altogether. Reading materials for readers of all levels will need to be available.

Very few of the sheepwagons have any sort of power source, therefore tapes may not be of use to patrons. Some, however, may have small tape players, and will enjoy music or books on tape, which should be provided to those who can use them.

Due to the nomadic nature of our patrons, it may be impossible to guarantee the return of materials. Knowing this fact, donation of some materials would be an important part of making this library work. See Contact Info page to see the lists of desired materials, or to make a donation.

Obstacles: This library would rely heavily on the local employer of herders: ranchers. Poor communication, and the unexpected moving of patrons without notifying the librarian could cause obvious problems. Patrons may be unfamiliar with library systems, or uncomfortable due to lack of skills, and therefore, uncooperative. Language barriers could make the process difficult for both patron and librarian.

Weather is always a factor here, as it can change quickly, with a big cloudburst leaving the librarian temporarily stranded. Vehicle breakdowns in isolated areas can mean time, money, and safety issues.

The low-volume of patrons could translate to a high cost per visit ratio.

Since sites generally have no electricity available to them, and herders are unlikely to have computer skills, written records would be crucial in managing this library.

Opportunities: The library would provide an opportunity for literacy and bilingual education, as many herders are from Spanish-speaking countries. It would also provide opportunities for continuing education for those who wish to take advantage of it, and perhaps, most essentially, provide social service information to people who might not otherwise know what services exist for them. Secondarily, a bridge between town community and ranch communities would be emphasized.

This library would provide a resource for an isolated community by creating a job that requires a variety of skills. It would bring attention to the community, and convey to the local people the importance of the library in their lives.

At the least, it would provide a means of diversion and entertainment for a group of people whose work is solitary.

Librarian: See Contact Info page for information on the librarian profile for the Alone on the Range Library Project.

 




Deliveries and pickups must be scheduled. Those desiring services would go to our Contact Info page to make arrangements for library services.

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