Lexie Iacovetto developed a love of books at an early age, slowly moving from the "Pow" and "Kazums" of comic books to the carefully chosen words of James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway.
Mary Jean Perry "lived in a world of books," studying English at college and trying her hand at teaching. After learning she could best teach at the library, she became a librarian.
When Dina Murray moved from a big city to the small town of Oak Creek, she realized libraries are important for exploring new cultures and worlds, especially in a rural setting.
For Wendy Villa, the love of libraries developed as she watched how her twin girls, now 5, became interested in books and reading. Then, she said, she knew she wanted to be a part of South Routt libraries to ensure they stay a part of the community.
The women are four of about a dozen part-time workers and volunteers involved with the South Routt Library District.
With several recent grants for improvements and hopes of a library expansion in the near future, the three South Routt libraries are energized.
"It's an exciting time," said Iacovetto, who is a librarian in Yampa and Oak Creek. "We're just trying to give back to the public, to improve the services a little at a time," Villa said.
Libraries have been a part of South Routt for years. Initially, Oak Creek was part of the Steamboat Springs library district, and Yampa had a private library funded and maintained by the Yampa Women's Club.
But in 1980, the South Routt Library District was formed. The district was funded by a 1.5 mill levy, which has since shrunk to about 1.1 mills because of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights or TABOR bill.
The South Routt Community Center, from which the Oak Creek library rents space, was built in the early 1980s. With the help of the Town of Yampa, the Yampa Library is in a modular building that was moved to a new lot and remodeled. The Toponas Library is at Perry's ranch in a separate building.
For the first time since the district was created, it has a director: Villa. The director will link the library board and the operations of the library, streamlining the decision-making and operations process, Murray said.
"It also creates a sense ... of unity," she said. "Having one director who oversees all three (libraries) makes it more of a South Routt district."
Villa agreed that the part-time director position would be positive for the libraries and for the South Routt area, which has been working to develop a sense of community.
Recent grants also have helped the libraries move forward on their goals.
With a $10,500 grant from the state of Colorado, and help from the Three River's Regional Library System, the libraries soon will be automated. That means that instead of searching for books with a card catalogue and recording checked-out books by hand, information on all books will be online, so patrons can see what books are available with an Internet connection at home, and librarians can scan books in to check them out.
"At the touch of a button, you'll be able to know what's in this library, what's in the neighboring library," and what books are in libraries across the state, Villa said. "Being a librarian, you want to share all of your resources with everybody," Villa said. "That's what we're here for, and this will enable that."
Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the library will receive $2 from the Gates Foundation for every $1 that it puts toward the costs to replace computers or upgrade the Internet connection.
That means that when the district buys one computer, the Gates Foundation will buy two, Villa said.
Being a part of the Beanpole Project, a statewide effort to get high-speed technology to rural communities, has made it possible for the district to get a faster Internet connection. Library users are enjoying the service, the librarians said.
Within the past few months, the Yampa and Oak Creek libraries each received a computer kiosk from the Yampa Valley Community Information Center that gives information on Routt County, the region and more.
Some of the library district's biggest successes involve children. There are two Story Hour programs for preschoolers at the Oak Creek library on Mondays, and one at the Yampa Library on Wednesdays. In a typical week, about 60 children attend, Villa said.
Tutors bring their students to the libraries, and home-schooling parents find resources there.
"Just to see any kids coming here and picking up a book, and even if they can't read, they love to look at it," Villa said. "You feel like that's an accomplishment."
The library district is revisiting the idea of adding a bond and mill levy question to the ballot to build and fund a new library in Oak Creek, Villa said. A similar question was defeated at the polls a few years ago, but library officials said they will start looking at the issue again next year, as the space is badly needed.
"Any kind of input is really helpful, because that's what we're trying to do, is respond to what the community wants and needs," Murray said.
"I just think libraries bring you the world," Villa said. "It's a free place. There's no charge to come here."
To make comments, volunteer or become a member of the Friends of the South Routt Library District, call Wendy Villa at 736-8371 or 638-4654.