Last week my son and I met Jane at the library. It was hard to miss Jane in the foyer of Kalispell’s Imagine IF Library. Jane is the skull from a 12-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur discovered in Montana and was on display for the Diggin’ Dinos with the Carter County Museum exhibit for the children’s summer experience at the library. It was a one-day free event held at the library and gave families like mine an opportunity to see skulls, a fossilized shin bone, casts of femurs, claws, and teeth from dinosaurs found near Ekalaka and talk with paleontologists like Nate who chatted with my 3-year-old about dinosaur feathers. My son rattled off his blossoming knowledge of all things dinosaurs to a very patient and passionate Nate, who took the time to show him different bones and share that he started learning about dinosaurs when he was about my son’s age.
My son was beyond thrilled and raced through the busy library, exploring the various different interactive areas the library staff created to show off all things dinosaur and Montana’s unique prehistoric history. After the event, with my son still aglow from meeting Jane and talking with Nate and the other staff from the Carter County Museum, I called Connie Behe, director of the Imagine IF Library. I wanted to thank her and her staff, and also ask how the program was received as my impression was that kids and adults alike were excited to see such a display. Connie told me they tallied 470 children at the exhibit and this number didn’t include the adults who accompanied the aspiring paleontologists. I know I was not the only adult who examined the shin bone from a T-rex, or learned about Montana’s state fossil, the dinosaur Maiasaura, which means “good mother lizard.” Apparently she was a good mother because she fed her offspring, and her status makes me feel like an excellent mother since I feed my son, regularly, sometimes hourly, and do fun things with him like take him to the library.
Connie also mentioned that there was a significant increase in the number of books that were checked out that day, especially juvenile non-fiction, which likely means that all those children who met with the staff from the Carter County Museum and marveled over Jane’s enormous skull, likely checked out books on dinosaurs. She said the library staff had prominently displayed books on dinosaurs and science to help encourage program attendees to continue to follow their curiosity after their encounter with the displays and activities.
My son could hardly contain his excitement about his experience, and I am grateful that our local library supports and creates diverse and exciting programs such as the one partnered with the Carter County Museum. Perhaps there is also another “Nate” who will begin his studies and vocation in paleontology after “Diggin’ for Dinosaurs.” I also have a feeling that in my house, I may be discovering hidden dinosaurs in all sorts of new places (like the couch or the dog’s dish) as my little dino expert busily puts his knowledge to work.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.