The Johnson County Library of 1999 would be unrecognizable to the building’s current patrons.
The building was almost 10,000 square feet smaller. Video cassettes were in vogue. The internet was dial-up. E-books could be found only in the pages of a science fiction novel.
But in both 1999 and 2019, the beating heart of the library has been the same: a friendly bibliophile who loves her community just as much as she loves books.
At the end of June, Cynthia Twing will step down after two decades as the library’s director.
“It just seemed like the right time,” Twing said. “My husband has been retired for five years, and I want to spend more of my time with him. And after the completion of the expansion project (in 2016), I feel like I have accomplished what I came here to do. It’s time for somebody else to have the adventure.”
Twing started working at the Johnson County Library in 1990 as a technical services and young adult librarian. She was appointed the library’s director in 1999. She also oversees the library’s Kaycee branch.
Twing said she has a lot to be proud of in her two decades of service – from being named Wyoming’s Librarian of the Year in 2008 to being the chairwoman of the Wyoming Library Association’s legislative committee in the mid-2000s.
But few accomplishments hold the same place in her heart as the library’s 2016 expansion, which added 10,000 square feet, an expanded children’s area, a teen room and a local history room.
“Getting that done was really important and fulfilling for me,” Twing said.
In 2014, the Johnson County commissioners pledged $1 million toward the expansion project, and the library board proposed a 1 percent – or sixth-penny – tax that would pay for the other $3.7 million needed for the project. The proposal was that local sales tax would be increased by 1 percent and would continue at that rate until the $3.7 million was collected.
The library faced an uphill battle in passing the tax because voters had been asked to tax themselves for capital improvement projects twice in the past decade and both of those projects had fallen far short of the votes needed to pass them.
On general election night, Twing had a pleasant surprise. The 1 percent tax passed. Approximately 53 percent of voters – or 1,758 people – voted in favor of the tax. Construction started in spring 2015, and the new library opened to the public in summer 2016.
Twing said that her years of work on the project were well worth the effort.
“It’s been really fulfilling to see what this building means to the community and to see everyone embrace it,” Twing said. “It’s quite a legacy.”
Twing will retire in June. Starting this month, the library board will begin searching for a new director. The board will consider candidates both in and outside of Johnson County, Twing said.