Twice a week, Rock River residents seeking knowledge make their way to the town hall to the only public library in miles.
Inside the Rock River Branch of the Albany County Public Library are several unique items representing the town’s history, such as a painting of a mountain lion that once hung in the elementary school and a safe containing records from the town’s early days.
Rock River Librarian Shirley Spiegelberg said the library has gone through several changes since she was 13 years old and moved to Rock River from Missouri. Back then, the library was located in the old bank building and didn’t have the furnishings it has today, she said.
“When I took the job 16 years ago, (the library) was only this one room,” Spiegelberg said. “It had two huge metal shelves that went clear up to the ceiling that used to be in the old library at the University of Wyoming. Eventually, we evolved to what we have now, two large rooms, lots of shelving and lots of books.”
Growing the library took several years of collecting items such as book shelves, tables and other pieces of Rock River history that were going to be thrown away but were fixed up and are now being used at the library, she said.
“We had to raid the basement of the Laramie library for furniture because we didn’t have anything,” Spiegelberg said. “I guess I’m just one of those people that can’t stand to see stuff thrown away.”
An example of the library taking in items is the old safe in the corner of the room. Spiegelberg said the safe once belonged to the town and after years of being in the town hall, it was decided it would be thrown away. She heard the crew trying to move the safe but stopped them from discarding it.
“We got the combination to the outside and a key to the inside, and we got it open,” Spiegelberg said. “(When they opened the safe, they found) records of people who were arrested in Rock River … I was glad to be able to rescue it.”
Because there aren’t many children in Rock River and the library is open at times when they would be at school or home, students are a rare sight in the library, she said. Most of the library’s patrons are elderly residents coming for a monthly tea event at the library or people coming in to use the computers across the hall, Spiegelberg said.
“The elderly seem to be home more during our hours,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of students now, we used to years ago but not too much anymore. Not too many young children live in Rock River anymore, it kind of comes and goes, and if there is a few born — and they don’t move away — they grow up (and raise a family here).”
Each year, Spiegelberg keeps patrons’ interests in mind when she orders new books and removes some from the library’s collection of about 3,000 books, she said.
“It is according to what my patrons want,” Spiegelberg said.
“I make sure that every year, when I order, I get a new selection of children’s books and videos and then I just go from there. The older ladies read Christian fiction … and nonfiction or whatever anybody is looking for in the order.”
Spiegelberg said the biggest challenge the Rock River Library faces does not stem from its isolation in Albany County, but that people don’t come to libraries for information anymore. As technology advances, more people are turning to more convenient sources of information, she said.
“Libraries are really taking a hit because of technology,” Spiegelberg said. “Everybody has everything at their fingertips now, so we don’t have as many patrons in any library as we used to.”