Community Narrative


Angela West

Rural Library Management

IS 590

Community Narrative


This paper will present an analysis of the community served by the Wise County Public Library

(WCPL). This will cover various factors that affect the people living in the town of Wise, Virginia (as well as the greater Wise County area) and will provide insight into how that information affects the way the community interacts with public libraries. Information for this analysis was gathered from various authoritative sources, including the United States Census Bureau, Association of

Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, the Town of Wise Official Website, and the Lonesome

Pine Regional Library’s Annual Report.

Community Analysis of the Town of Wise and Wise County, Virginia

The town of Wise is nestled in the heart of the Appalachians, along what is widely known as the

“Trail of the Lonesome Pine.” It is the county seat of Wise County, which shares its western border with the neighboring state of Kentucky. The town of Wise itself spans 3.1 square miles, while the entirety of Wise County encompasses an area of 405 square miles. Wise County contains a portion of the Jefferson National Forest, a forest that has been designated as a wilderness area and is prohibited from being developed further. As such, Wise County contains a vast area of wooded

mountains, which lends itself well to nature trails, scenic overlooks, and other tourist attractions.

High Knob, a 4,223 feet peak located in Wise County, is a notable draw for locals and tourists. From its highest point, one can see four states outside of Virginia: Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. (Town of Wise, 2014)

In the latest records from the US Census Bureau (2014), Wise County’s total population is an estimated 40,918. 26.2% of that population consists of children under the age of 18. 14.7% of

Wise County’s population is over the age of 65. Women make up about 48.7% of the demographic, giving the county a relatively even gender distribution. The number of persons per family household is 2.45. (US Census Bureau, 2014) With this information, it is evident that Wise County is home to a large number of families, with a significant portion of households housing a child under

18. WCPL tailors several services to accommodate families, including children’s programming that is scheduled around school hours and incentives offered to families and children who check out a certain number of books.


Wise County is predominately White/Caucasian, with that particular segment comprising 93.4% of the population. However, there is a significant and growing population of minorities within the area. For example, the Black and African American community has grown to 5.1% as of the 2010 census (up from a mere 2% in 2000), and the Hispanic community has grown from .7% to 1.2% in the same time frame. (US Census Bureau, 2014) With this in mind, WCPL has the opportunity to develop programs and collections that could better serve minorities in the region and celebrate diversity. For example, the library could expand its Spanish language materials to benefit the

Spanish speaking community, and to help others in the community learn Spanish language skills.

The US Census Bureau (2014) provides a more in depth look at the racial distribution within

Wise County:








White alone

Black or African American

American Indian and Alaska Native


Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander

Two or More Races

Hispanic or Latino

Income and Economy:

According to the US Census Bureau (2014), the median household income from 2008-2012 was

$35,120. Wise County has a sizeable portion of its population below the poverty level (24.1%), and the unemployment rate has risen from 7.8% in November of 2012 to 8.2% in November of 2013.

(Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013) The level of poverty and low income households in the area have made the free services of the public library even more valuable.

For many years, the biggest industry by far within the Wise community was coal. In recent years, however, many of these coal plants have been shut down or significantly reduced in size, which has only worsened the local economy. No other big industry has moved in to replace coal, although some nationally run companies such as Walmart and Sykes have seen success in the area.

(Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013) As of 2013, the top six largest employers in Wise County were as follows:

Wise County School Board

Red Onion Correctional Center

University of Virginia / Blue Ridge Hospital

Food City (grocery store)

Wallens Ridge Correctional Center

Sykes Enterprises

(Labor Statistics, 2013)

By industry, the biggest source of employment within the county are government jobs

(3,951 employees), retail (2,048 employees), and mining (1.035 employees). (Bureau of Labor

Statistics, 2013)

There are several locally owned businesses operating in the town of Wise. Within just a short walking distance of the library, one can find a comic book shop (Cavalier Comics), a tattoo parlor (Southern Steel), a thrift shop (Wise Thrift Barn), a computer repair store (PC Tech), a hair salon (Genesis), a lumber supply store (Wise Lumber & Supply Co., Inc.), and a muffler repair shop

(Tim’s Muffler Service) – all of which are locally owned and operated. (Town of Wise, 2014) Local businesses such as these offer WCPL an opportunity to connect with business owners and help promote services to a wider audience.


According to the data collected by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies

(ASARB) in 2010, Wise County is home to 106 religious congregations and a total of 12,186 adherents, or about 29.4% of the total population. The religious community is predominantly

Evangelical Christian, with the majority of those being either Free Will or Southern Baptist.

(ARDA, 2010) Since this is a good portion of the community, the library has created services to address this segment of the population. For example, WCPL recently developed an “Inspirational

Fiction” collection that houses faith-based and other conservative fiction books. While the library strives to be open minded and embrace all ideas, it must be sensitive to the attitudes of its user base and therefore must be aware of its image and marketing in the local community.


In Wise County, less than 3/4 of people over the age of 25 (71.5%) have a high school degree, and only 12.7% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. (US Census Bureau, 2010) According to the Virginia

Labor Market Information (2013), only 3,883 of 32,797 people in Wise County reported having a

Bachelor’s Degree or higher.

Wise County is home to seventeen public schools, one private school, and two colleges.

Five of these (including the University of Virginia’s College at Wise) are located within the town of

Wise itself. (Town of Wise, 2014) The area also has a burgeoning homeschool community, and

WCPL has offered several specialized homeschooling programs in response to this growing interest.

(Edwards, 2014)

Free services such as those offered by WCPL are immensely important in giving the population of Wise County a chance to learn and expand their education, knowledge, and personal skills. Services such as the children’s programming not only give poor families an educational opportunity, but they also provide the means for children to interact and make connections with other parents and children in the area. By providing free computer access and wi-fi, WCPL also gives those who are unemployed a means to search and apply for jobs online.

Cultural events and interests:

The town of Wise, where WCPL is located, is the seat of Wise County and features several local community functions. Annual events, such as the Fall Fling and the Battle of the Big Glades Civil

War re-enactment, celebrate the history and heritage of the community by giving locals the opportunity to show off their crafts and talents, as well as delving into local history. Several

Farmer’s Markets in the area also give people a chance to advertise and sell their locally grown

good and homemade arts and crafts. (Town of Wise, 2008) WCPL strives to serve this creative community by providing craft books and workshops, as well as an entire collection devoted to local historical data and artifacts.

Wise County has traditionally been the home to a large number of coal workers. The county has a long history with coal, as can be seen by visiting the Southwest Virginia Museum in Big Stone

Gap, VA, which houses a number of historical coal mining tools and other paraphernalia. (SWVA

Museum, n.d.) WCPL often coordinates with the local Historical Society to create attractions surrounding the coal mining culture, and contains several circulating materials on Wise’s history with coal.


By analyzing the community that WCPL serves, the library is able to see what services are needed, which are lacking, and which are altogether unnecessary. As is mentioned in LPRL’s strategic plan

(2013), “as our communities grow, our libraries must grow with them to firmly establish themselves at the center of their community.” In order to achieve this, the library must learn what its community needs and wants. Once this is realized, the library will be able to create a custom, specially tailored and marketed service that will address the specific local needs of the people it serves. This includes diverse, free programming that is specially designed to improve the lives of the community, especially in difficult economic times,


Lonesome Pine Regional Library (LPRL) (2013). 2012-2013 Annual Report. Retrieved from

Lonesome Pine Regional Library (LPRL) (2013). Strategic Plan 2012-2016.

The Official Town of Wise, Virginia Website. (2008). Retrieved from

Southwest Virginia Museum (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved from

US Census Bureau (2000). Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000.

Retrieved from

US Census Bureau (2014, January 14). Wise County QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau.

Retrieved from