September 26, 2019
Bisbee, Arizona, has the best small library in the United States
by Ryan Harrington
Bisbee, Arizona is an old copper mining town of about 5,000 people just north of the U.S. / Mexico boarder—and it looks the part.
Perhaps best known for the violence surrounding its deportation of striking mine workers in 1917, the city has now earned the only distinction grand enough to erase that brutal stain from its past.
That’s right, Bisbee’s Copper Queen Library, open since 1882, has been named the best small library in the United States by no less an authority than Library Journal (a trade magazine for librarians and an important circular for our industry).
As Henry Brean writes of the honor for the Arizona Daily Star:
According to Library Journal, the 137-year-old institution in Cochise County took home the top prize for 2019 thanks to its innovative efforts to expand services to the community, including early literacy programs, a seed library for gardeners, and a slate of unconventional items available for checkout, such as sports equipment and Wi-Fi internet hot spots.
The library was originally owned by the mining company itself. Popular legend holds that the library was founded in reaction to the … less cerebral pastimes of late 19th century miners, pastimes like lynching each other. The company gave the library to the city in 1976.
Today, Library Manager Jason Macoviak says that the institution has about 3,000 library card holders. Not a bad ratio for the town!
Oh, and for those of you still interested in the deported (and murdered) strikers:
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.