Rachel Reynolds Luster and the Myrtle Public Library Featured in Rural Missouri Magazine

luster library

Photograph by Paul Newton, Rural Missouri

By Matthew Fluharty

Rachel Reynolds Luster, Founding Project Steward of Art of the Rural, has been in the news many times over the last few months with her projects — from her founding of a county co-op to her work as a heritage studies scholar — that merge creativity and cultural exchange. With great passion and imagination, Rachel has served as the Myrtle, Missouri public librarian — modernizing its catalogue, bringing in locally-appropriate titles and, as she recently told Rural Missouri, transforming the library into a “community hub.” As Paul Newton writes, Rachel has given great consideration to the diverse ways in which a rural library can contribute to its community:

The library also offers other affordable, vital services to the Myrtle area, where more than a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line. The two computers in the library, for example, provide the only public access to the Internet in an approximately 25-mile radius.

“Broadband Internet service isn’t available everywhere around here, and cell service is spotty and limited. So we can be an access point for people to get online,” says Rachel of the high-speed Internet offered at the library. “We’re hoping to add Wi-Fi soon.”

With the influx of books, Rachel has been able to devote part of her $200 monthly budget to the library’s DVD collection.

“We’ve tried to add a lot of popular TV series because some people may not be able to afford cable or satellite service,” Rachel says, adding the closet video store or Redbox kiosk is about a 25-minute drive away. “Documentaries have been really big for us as well, and we have the classics too, like ‘Annie Hall’ or ‘Cool Hand Luke.’

Starting in May, the library is partnering with the Missouri Department of Conservation to offer fishing poles for children to check out just like books.

Folks can learn more about the Myrtle Public Library by following their work on Facebook and also listening to Jennifer Davidson’s reporting that ran on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition last autumn.