As librarians, we concern ourselves with a variety of stories. One story that tends to get overlooked, possibly due to its “book” being unconventionally large, is the story of the Earth. I’ve tried to help fix that this summer with my “Summer Rocks!” program for the Dickinson Area Public Library Bookmobile. Having partnered with the Badlands Dinosaur Museum, specimens from the Education Collection travelled with me on the Bookmobile to tell the story of the geologic past. Samples of sulfur and travertine, pumice and basalt, spoke of spurting geysers and active volcanoes. Limestones and sandstones and shales revealed a quieter existence, with placid lagoons and still lakes, rushing rivers and vast dunes. Shining pieces of slate, banded chunks of gneiss, and sparkling marble told of the great tectonic forces that drive the movement of the plates and continents. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the multitude of fossils, from the bug-eyed trilobites and clam-like brachiopods of the Paleozoic Era to the great dinosaurs and megafauna of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic tell the story of life and how it has changed and evolved from the simplest cells to “endless forms most beautiful”.
Every child has been wide-eyed with wonder at the rainbow of minerals and diversity of fossil forms, and many have shared their own fossil collecting experiences. One first grader even brought in a few of his own fossils that he wanted to loan to the program! Adult and parental response has been similarly positive, with many questions about where to find their own mineral samples, and where to take their kids for more fossil fun. To start off (or add to!) their collections, each child who has come in has been given a plaster replica of a Tyrannosaurus or Spinosaurus tooth, and the reaction to receiving a dinosaur tooth for their very own, even a replica one, is about what you could imagine.
Partnering with our local museum has allowed the Bookmobile to bring more than the usual stories of book and film on the road. It has let us take the story of our planet and the history of life in a form more tangible than words on a page.
Many thanks to Dickinson Museum Center Director Bob Fuhrman and Curator Dr. Denver Fowler for this joint venture and for providing specimen access.