Loud and clear

Oct 11, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

Riverton library manager Shari Haskins didn't concur entirely withFriday'seditorial about some of the issues she and her staff are facing.

There was a factual error which was easy enough to correct inTuesday'spaper. Beyond that however, she took issue with our use of the words "vagrancy" and "loitering" in the editorial describing the range of challenges the library is confronting.

To be clear, those were our words, not hers. They are a matter of opinion. The accuracy of them can be debated, but Shari Haskins does not use those words in characterizing the situation at the library.

Words she does use are "compassionate staff," "welcoming staff," "there to serve," and "safe environment" for all visitors.

She stresses that concerns about transient traffic and "latch-key" kids are community issues, not just library issues. For her part, the director says she is "glad they have a library to go to."

She notes that the location of the library is a contributor to the evolving situation there. That's the truth. Longtime residents remember a different surrounding area when the library opened at that location nearly 35 years ago.

Riverton Middle School is close to the library now. It was in a different location then. There are more rental housing units across the street now than there were then. Many more cars, trucks and buses pass the library in 2017 than did in 1983, partly due to the expansion of Major Avenue, which ended at West Sunset a mile north when the library was built but now runs immediately adjacent to the facility.

It's much easier for passersby to see the library premises, to come onto the library premises, and remain on the library premises than it used to be. That poses challenges for the library staff - challenges that the manager says she and her people are meeting and will continue to meet in a spirit of concerned community service.

"We are there to serve all," she says.

The library is a public place. Part of its function is giving people a chance to come and hang out.

They are not always there to check out a book, do homework, look at an exhibit, or attend a scheduled function. Sometimes they are there to sit and relax, to meet friends, or get in out of the weather for awhile.

Perhaps they aren't typical library users, but, as Shari Haskins puts it, "they are not criminals."

Amid county budget concerns, library board concerns, community concerns and ever-changing library concerns, her message is this: Everyone is welcome at the Riverton branch of the Fremont County Library.

That is a positive, important statement for the community to hear, and we are hearing it, loud and clear, from the library manager.

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