Trying to find the library in Gardiner, MT

Trying to find the library in Gardiner, MT

We’d been without internet access for about a week. It was starting to wear on us. We needed contact with the outside world, with people who weren’t currently at Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks. We decided to make for Gardiner, MT, to find a library, some groceries, and a six-pack.

The drive to Gardiner was fantastic. Gardiner was the original entrance to Yellowstone, the first national park created by Congress in 1872. At first glance, it’s a typically cute little western town. Cowboy boot shops, saloons, outdoorsy shops, etc. We made for the spot where Google had indicated the library could be found. It was Tuesday, and the library was open just today and Thursday for a few hours. We drove through town, and then the road turned to dirt. We turned into a dead-end street lined with condos. The library is clearly not here.

This is maybe the 50th time the Google has been wrong.

In a fit of Google-directed anger, Paul checked the Yahoo map. It pointed us back into the center of town. We went to the address indicated and found…the Chamber of Commerce. Good, at least they should know where the library is. We went in and asked the older woman working at the desk where we could find the library. She said, “Keep going down this street towards the gate, it’s right there. But it’s not open today, it’s only open one day a week and I don’t think it’s today.” We stared in disbelief. The other woman piped up: “No, it is open today, it’s open Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

We walked down the street and saw: nothing. The businesses taper off and there’s just the park gate. We went into a gift shop at the end of the line and asked where the library can be found. The guy at the desk said, “Library? I don’t think we have a library here.” The other guy said, “Oh yeah, it’s right down the street, in the arch park. But I don’t know if it’s open today; it’s only open one day a week. If it’s not open, at least you’ll have a nice walk.” Chuckle.

We decided to give up on walking and got back in the car. I didn’t trust this guy. We found the arch park, but no library. There was a police station, a high school. There was a football field where three elk were helping keep the grass in line. I was so frustrated by now. This town is small: population less than 900. Shouldn’t they have a better grip on things?

We decided we were going to keep circling until we found the damn library. We’d look at every building in town, if necessary. Then I spotted a sign on the back of the police station: library. Eureka!

Paul went in and asked if they have internet. The woman ensured him they did. We went in, but there are no tables. We perch in chairs between the stacks and tried to log on to the WiFi. It was password protected. Paul asked the woman (let’s call her Mildred) what the password is — there’s a sign touting free WiFi and we can see the presence of the WiFi on our laptops, we just can’t get to it. The woman embarked on a long explanation of how she doesn’t normally work here, she’s just covering for the person who normally works Tuesdays, who is painting her house today, and gosh darn it, she has no idea what the password is. She isn’t even sure if they have WiFi. How should she be expected to know this stuff? She only works here every once in a while.

We couldn’t give up now. I signed on to the library computer’s desktop and Paul tethered his phone to his laptop. We checked email. We were next to a door that is shared with one of the police officer’s offices. We can hear him talking on the phone and squeaking around in his desk chair. A sign above the computer warns me not to look at pornography.

We were getting some emails out when a truck pulled up to the door. Literally, it was blocking the door. The old guy driving shouted greetings out the window to Mildred, then stamped in. “Wouldn’t ya know it Mildred, I’m headed to Gettysburg this summer, and I don’t know the first thing about the place. I need you to find me some information about Gettysburg.” Mildred started sighing, explaining that she doesn’t normally work here and she’s just covering for the regular Tuesday librarian, who is off painting her house, and she has no idea where she can find any information on Gettysburg or if they even have any information on Gettysburg. She asked the guy why he’s going to Gettysburg anyway. No response. She asked two more times. I think he’s pretty well deaf because he doesn’t respond. Mildred rifled around through the card catalog for a few minutes, sighing, then threw her hands up and said, “I can’t find anything. I wish this stuff was all on a computer.” Though if it was on the computer, I’m not sure she could be expected to know how to use it. It’s not like she works here regularly, or anything.

The Roosevelt arch in Gardiner, MT -- the original entrance to Yellowstone.
The Roosevelt arch in Gardiner, MT — the original entrance to Yellowstone.