New computers for county libraries

By: 
Nathan Oster

The Big Horn County Library System is reaping the benefits of an endowment fund that was established several years ago and a U.S. stock market that rocketed to all-time highs at the close of 2020.

Twenty-one new computers have been installed in the Basin, Greybull and Lovell branches and the best of the used ones they replaced went to Frannie and Deaver branches, according to Lisa Chestnut, the director of the Big Horn County Library System.

All of the new computers are for the public’s use and address a need identified by a consultant group that evaluated the entire library system a few years ago. “One of their recommendations was that we needed to improve our technology,” said Chestnut.  

Chestnut said the county’s tech department evaluated all of the existing computers in the five branches. “Every one of them, minus about five, needed upgrading,” she said.  Several were 15 to 20 years old.

Chestnut said the Foundation has been helping the library system every year by providing the funding for the Overdrive e-book subscriptions, “which are really popular now,” as well as for the large-print collection that the Basin library gets and shares with other libraries, plus new books on CD.

This year the Foundation was even more generous, agreeing to proceed with the computer upgrade.

Chestnut said she did a lot of research and shopped around before ultimately making a pitch to the Foundation board to proceed with a purchase through Dell.  The all-in-one Inspirons are much faster and have bigger monitors the ones library patrons are accustomed to using.

The public computers at the branch libraries are used a great deal, she said.  People use them to file unemployment claims, research and apply for jobs, and work with their health insurance companies.  They’re all popular among members of home-schooling families and people who work from home.

“Right now, especially, people are using computers more than ever,” she said, adding that early reviews of the new computers have been very favorable.

Carolyn Walton, who chairs the Big Horn County Library Foundation board, said the Foundation has been happy to fill in the gaps between what the library system needs and what it’s been able to afford through its own budget. 

The new computers were badly needed, and with 2020 “being a very good year for the stock market,” the Foundation was in a position to increase its support of the library system, according to Walton. 

The Foundation has more than $600,000 in that fund, but can only spend what it generates in investment income.  County residents played a key role in establishing the endowment, raising almost $170,000 through various fundraisers and grants.  The county’s money was then matched, three to one, by the state, which also provided a $100,000 bonus for meeting the endowment challenge goal.