With an idea started in 1913 by the Women’s Federated Study Club for a library, the first Bowman Regional Public Library was built in 1915. In 2005, the library moved from the historic 1,400 square foot building to the city’s old grocery store. Upgrading to 6,000 square feet is not the only upgrade that the library has seen since the transition to the new space. Library Director Sarah Snavely estimates that before the move, the library would see about 4,000 people each year, and now, they estimate over 25,000 visits per year.
“It was definitely something we needed. It was community renewal really,” says Snavely. With over half of the visitors served coming from outside of Bowman County, including visitors from as far as Montana and South Dakota as well as all sorts of tourists, the mission of the Bowman Regional Public Library is to serve the informational needs and wants of all area residents.
The additional space has been hugely beneficial to the local community. “We made space for computers, a bigger selection of books, a children’s department and that kind of stuff,” mentions Snavely. They also offer free Internet access including Wi-Fi, public meeting rooms, a used book sale room, grand piano and public art space. With all the updates and additions, the Bowman Regional Public Library has really become a beacon for arts, culture and literacy in southwestern North Dakota.
“We have been here since 2006, and with that much traffic the building needed to be refreshed and alive. So recently, Dakota Community Bank & Trust’s Kristy (Pagel) spearheaded a fireplace project to embrace that Scandinavian sense of Hygge (pronounced hooga), which is to embrace winter instead of dislike or hate it. We always wanted the place to be a friendly, warm community space. We want people to come, and they do. They come to the library with their cup of coffee and they read the magazines and they read paper newspapers or a book. It’s been a place people stop when they get their oil changed in town. That fireplace is that thing we wanted to do to push that idea forward,” recalls Snavely. The fireplace was sponsored in 2019 by Dakota Community Bank & Trust (DCB&T) in an effort to assist with upgrades to the community staple.
In addition to a donation to the fireplace, the library has an annual silent auction to raise funds for projects within the library in which DCB&T donates to each year. “Dakota Community Bank & Trust always has measured, thoughtful responses to what our community needs and how to push our community forward and that is what it takes for a smaller community. We all have to work together. It’s all about community here,” asserts Snavely. “The other thing that is so wonderful is that they sponsor Pictures with Santa each year that takes place in the library usually right after Thanksgiving. Because of the bank (DCB&T) sponsoring those free pictures, we see so many families that many times don’t think about the Library otherwise. We get more library cards that day. People actually sign up with their family. We check out a whole bunch of children’s picture books that day. It’s not just about getting your free pictures with Santa. It is how those unintended consequences result in getting books in the hands of kids, so we just love it.”
Snavely maintains that the library has been a safe place for kids to come after school with their free after-school program, mostly supported by sponsors within the community, and that it has been a place for people to come and have safe experiences. “A book is just a bound printed experience. You come to the library and you can check out a book on any topic. It’s a safe place to come in the community. It’s a safe place for ideas. It’s a safe place for questions. It is not just about the books but we want to be a forward, positive thing in the community for all ages,” she closes.
In an effort continue its legacy being a wonderful partner with other local organizations to serve the community really well, the Bowman Regional Public Library works hard to maintain its reputation for quality public service. The library will be known in the community and in the surrounding area as the place to go for knowledgeable, friendly assistance, whether you are looking for information, exploring your cultural heritage, pursuing a hobby or other interest, wish to stimulate your child’s interest in reading and literature, access the internet, advance your studies, improve your literacy, find a good book, or use the many other library resources and services. To see how they are bringing people, information, and ideas together to enrich lives and build community, visit them on Facebook.
Written by Lindsey Hefta, Marketing Director