Flathead County Library Alliance is a grassroots organization formed by concerned citizens who believe that a thriving public library is the hallmark of a vibrant, informed, connected community.
In a growing community, our public libraries are a lifeline for people of all ages seeking to be informed and inspired. We've come together out of concern for the state of our public ImagineIF Libraries. After years of outstanding service, our libraries are now in danger or failing to meet the needs of our community. We formed because we were dismayed to see activist Trustees and County Commissioners voluntarily cut funding, make inappropriate hires, devalue the role of professional librarianship, promote and encourage censorship, and most importantly, fail to effectively plan for the future of our library facilities, collections and services.
The library budget needs to be appropriately increased to reflect our growing community. ImagineIF’s budget has remained relatively stagnant since budget cuts in 2017, despite significant community growth and increases in demand for library services. We want to see ImagineIF Libraries funded at a per capita level comparable with Montana peer libraries of our size. We want to see our tax dollars invested in library projects that further literacy, connectivity, community, personal growth, freedom of speech and discovery.
Right-sized, Modern Library Facilities
ImagineIF is the only comparably sized public library system in Montana that does not own facilities. Currently, local fire code dictates that the ImagineIf-Bigfork library can only hold 16 people, meaning that taxpayers can’t even access the programs they pay for. The ImagineIFLibrary Foundation has offered to gift Flathead County a right-sized, purpose-designed, fully renovated, and furnished library facility in Bigfork, paid for entirely with donor dollars. We insist that steps be immediately taken by the County Commissioners and Library Trustees to begin the process of accepting that gift, and work toward acquiring purpose-designed library facilities that meet the needs of Flathead County’s growing population in Kalispell and Columbia Falls as well.
Qualified Staff in a Supportive Work Environment
ImagineIF Libraries have only two remaining professional library staff with Master’s degrees in Library Science or an equivalent field — the fewest advanced degrees of Montana’s six largest libraries. ImagineIF is also the only library in Montana who's Director does not have a Bachelors or Master's degree. Library Trustees have cut wages for open positions, slashed educational requirements for the Library Director, has failed to maintain appropriate boundaries with staff, and has been cited as a primary reason for employee resignations. The way the Board of Trustees treats staff matters a great deal, and respect for professional librarianship is a must. Support for staff training, experience, respect for staff roles, diverse and uncensored materials collections, and a collaborative work environment must occur.
Neutral, Accountable Library Trustees
“Political winds” should not dictate the direction of a library nor the curation of its materials. Library board members should maintain a neutral role free from a political agenda or influence of personal beliefs, support equal access to a diverse collection of library materials, and promote a robust and vibrant library. We support the strong policies ImagineIF has in place to protect every patron’s freedom to obtain books on a diverse range of topics. Trustees must respect and support not just our local library’s role in defending our freedom to read, but the tenets and ethics of professional librarianship in America. If the current board members can’t adhere to these principles, the County Commissioners need to appoint new Trustees who can.
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