Miller’s ‘work’ is her pastime at Big Piney Library


BIG PINEY – It didn’t take Tawnya Miller long to think of potential projects the Big Piney Library might consider as part of its sister library’s Smithsonian exhibition on “The Way We Worked.”

Miller, whose first part-time job at the library was covering books almost six years ago, is now the adult program coordinator. A notebook is filled with posters of free special events she’s put together over the years or helped other staff coordinate.

For Miller, this particular work brings a great deal of satisfaction that leads to projects like “The Way We Worked in Sublette County,” on display in Big Piney through May 5.

She was able to research old local photographs, unpublished histories and the Big Piney Examiner for posters on each of the display’s panels.

She did all this in 22 hours a week with other staff pitching in.

She also interviewed seniors and elementary students and set up free weekly Wednesday workshops such as making soap and cheese and Dutch oven cooking through April.

“Yes, it’s been crazy,” she said. “My first thought was we needed an exhibit in Big Piney too. I decided to do a local history focus. For this Smithsonian event I tried to think of activities that are relevant here, and most have to do with women.”

For the kids, she printed out old photos of Big Piney and used brown duct tape to mark original streets. The first night of Lego construction, 20 kids came. The second night, 30 came. The finished Lego town sits on a large table for people to view at the end of the Big Piney Art & History Walk April 6.

Miller moved to Big Piney 16 years ago with a bachelor’s in teaching English and a master’s in history, both from the University of Wyoming. Born and raised on a ranch near Chadron, Neb., Miller had first traveled to New York City as a nanny “just to get away and see the world.”

“Did I ever see some things,” Miller said “But I couldn’t see the horizon and I couldn’t tell which way to go. Boy, do I love the West. That was quite an experience for a girl that grew up on the plains of Nebraska.”

After getting her degrees, Miller taught language arts in Laramie, Colorado, Kansas and Big Piney and her key interests are still the American West and women in history. She was considering a move into historic preservation when she got the call to teach in Big Piney.

Working part-time at the library gives Miller an opportunity to be a full-time mom to son Kaleb, 11. With the family’s ranch background, she finds inspiration in that history and that the county’s oldest homestead cabin is still on the ranch.

“Kaleb is the sixth generation of a line of ranchers here that started from James and Mildred Mickelson,” she said. “He’s quite the character, that kid, and he and Grandpa Mike are best pals.”

And she finds that many people in the Big Piney area have skills, stories and talents they are often very willing to share with the community.

“I love this job – it’s great,” Miller said. “And I am very proud of the fact that we are very welcoming to our patrons. It’s all about what our patrons and our community

Joy Ufford photos

Tawnya Miller, adult program coordinator at the Big Piney Library, is set for the April 6 opening reception.

Tawnya Miller and her son Kaleb meet up at the Big Piney Rec Center art show, part of the Big Piney Art & History Walk last Friday evening.


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