Bigfork Library Fundraiser Receives Two Grants

Grants, worth $100,000 and $10,000, push capital campaign for new Bigfork facility past $300,000

By Molly Priddy
ImagineIf Library in Kalispell. Beacon File Photo

The fundraising effort for a new Bigfork library continues to gather steam with two recent grants from Montana organizations looking to see the new facility come to life.

The grants, including $100,000 from the Laura G. Barrett Endowment and $10,000 from the Bigfork Rotary Club, have pushed the capital campaign for the new library to more than $348,000. The ImagineIF Library Foundation is hoping to raise $1.6 million through the capital campaign.

“We just crested the $300,000 mark with two important grants coming through,” ImagineIF Library Director Connie Behe told the Flathead County Commission at an Aug. 8 meeting.

The campaign to build a new library in Bigfork stems from needing more space in many of the ImagineIF branch locations; expansions and potentially new buildings were priorities identified in the library system’s Master Plan in 2014.

Behe reported to the commission on Aug. 8 that fiscal year 2019, which ended June 30, saw 315,000 visitors to the libraries, and 44,000 participants in library-initiated programs.

In December 2018, the ImagineIF Library Foundation purchased a $475,000 building from the Bethany Lutheran Church in Bigfork on Highway 35. The plan for the building, with its 6,000 square feet and a wooden lawn area, is to renovate and furnish it as the new library location.

When the campaign first started, the plan was to turn over ownership of the building to Flathead County after all the money was raised and the work was completed. However, the Flathead County Commission decided in May that it did not want to entertain owning library buildings in the future, and that the library’s expansion and building projects would be removed from the county’s Capital Improvement Plan.

The Capital Improvement Plan is a planning tool the county uses to save money for future projects, and is separate from the library operations budget, which remains funded through the county.

Now, according to the ImagineIF Library Foundation, the foundation will retain ownership of the building and the library can run its Bigfork branch there with more space for collections, people, and programming.

The Laura G. Barrett Endowment Grant, through the Montana Community Foundation, will match up to $100,000 in donations to the capital campaign through June 30, 2020. A community art gallery in the new library will be named for Barrett, a Montanan with a passion for the arts and building community who passed away in 2017.

And the Bigfork Rotary Club donated $10,000 toward the project in the form of a technology grant, to furnish the new space with technology and a digital media lab.

For more information on the ImagineIF Library Foundation capital campaign, visit www.imagineiflibraryfoundation.org.