By Brad Reynolds
For an area as sparsely populated and remote as Judith Basin, the county library (at Stanford) provides the most exposure some citizens will have to exotic people, places, ideas, and cultures—both fantastical and real.
“We’re sixty miles to the nearest metropolitan area,” says Jeanne Lillegard, Director of the Judith Basin County Library. “Our library acts as a window to the world.”
In recent years, however, that window was beginning to crack. The library’s collection, wonderful as it was, had surpassed the facility’s threshold. Books were piled on carts when there was no room on shelves. The restricted space only allowed for one table with six chairs, which local children often had to share two to a seat.
“Our commissioners have always been good about finding a way to put new books on our shelves,” Lillegard explains, “but there was nothing much we could do about the actual facility.”
It was a position the county had been in before; prior to 1960, the library had been located in a single room at the county courthouse. Having outgrown that space, a county library building was constructed with funding by prominent local banker NB Matthews.
Now, nearly sixty years later, a library addition has been constructed with seed money provided by the estate of NB Matthews Jr. and additional funding provided by numerous contributors. The Strand Foundation, established by Geyser rancher and philanthropist Leroy Strand, will have alone donated over $150,000 by the time the project is complete.
Although not entirely finished, the expanded facility is open, with new features and plenty of space for patrons to enjoy. There is a children’s room for kids’ books and crafts. The library’s computer bar is a fun (and respectable) hangout for teens and tweens. Adults have access to their own computer section as well, and the library’s new kitchenette makes a great spot for community presentations.
“We can share in each other’s joys and adventures here. It’s going to be like a community living room,” says Lillegard. “This library adds to a good quality of life in Judith Basin.”