Desert Dreams: The Foundation and Growth of the Amargosa Valley Library

EDDINGTON, Samuel (2018) Desert Dreams: The Foundation and Growth of the Amargosa Valley Library. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2018 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Transform Libraries, Transform Societies in Session 95 - Library History.

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Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.


Desert Dreams: The Foundation and Growth of the Amargosa Valley Library

Amargosa Valley is a remote community in Nevada, deep in the desert southwest of the United States. As is true in many similar settlements in the rural US, residents of Amargosa Valley are, in many ways, marginalized. The median income is far below the national average, and unemployment is higher; this is perhaps unsurprising, given the relative lack of industry in the area. Because the population is so small (even today, barely 1,500 people live scattered within the town’s 1,400+ square kilometers), there are no bookstores, coffee shops, supermarkets, or Internet cafes. The economic and informational opportunities that are easy to obtain in urban centers are either much more difficult to come by, or entirely unavailable. In the mid-1970s, the only library access for Valley residents came via a biweekly bookmobile from Las Vegas, some 140 kilometers away. However, in 1976, this community, dissatisfied with its access to information, founded its own library. Beginning as a single shelf at the back of a social hall, the library has transformed into a true local hub, one that has brought and continues to bring access to cultural knowledge, academic resources, and employment opportunities into this community. This paper illustrates the enormous difficulties inherent in creating a library in an area far from traditional information resources, and the way that these difficulties have been surmounted by the tenacious residents of this desert settlement. Though there have been challenges, trials, and setbacks, the history of the Amargosa Valley Library demonstrates the power of local, grassroots energy, aided by the knowledge and support of the state library and the state and local government. The lessons of this transformative library have application for libraries in other marginalized areas, where physical distance and isolation become problematic, and where informational access is an ongoing community challenge.

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