The Boundary County Library District (BCLD), in Bonner’s Ferry, was named the best small library in America by Library Journal magazine, the premier publication for the industry.

This coveted award showcases the exemplary work of libraries that serve populations of fewer than 25,000. And if you’re familiar with Boundary County, or by just checking out the top of the map, you know how remote and inaccessible (especially in the winter!) the area is.

Because of that isolation, the BCLD’s former director, Sandy Ashworth, worked hard to make the library the place in the community where residents could come for all sorts of things, from traditional to innovative.

Sandy knew that the area’s shrinking economy, which had been based on farming and timber, needed to expand in progressive ways. And she believed the library could be at the heart of that reinvigoration. So, Sandy repurposed the library space to accommodate the technical and hands-on resources that residents would need to transform Boundary County’s future into a vibrant one.

The library has STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) offerings from sources such as NASA, which are brought to Bonners Ferry via a wide-screen monitor that is connected to the world through Polycom. The BCLD also boasts an MIT Fab Lab, which includes a 3D printer, vinyl cutter, and milling machine. According to Sandy, on the day the milling machine arrived, “every man in town” came to the library.

And current Library Director Craig Anderson is continuing that forward-thinking approach. “I am the next generation of Sandy’s vision,” Craig said. “I let the board know that I share that vision to take the library far beyond a traditional library.” According to Craig, the Fab Lab fires up people’s imagination and has led to a whole new demographic discovering the library.

Whether they are holding a community-wide, Hawaiian-themed book read in the middle of winter or fostering teen entrepreneurship through a business development program, the BCLD is educating, engaging, and empowering their community in ways that are worthy of emulation — and honor.

To read the Library Journal article, please visit: