Bigfork Library Hits New Milestone

Progress inching along for new Bigfork library branch after ImagineIF Library Foundation passes halfway point in its fundraising

By Micah Drew
ImagineIF Library in Kalispell on April 24, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The ImagineIF Library Foundation is now more than halfway through its fundraising campaign for a new Bigfork library. 

In recent weeks, fundraising efforts surpassed $800,000, marking the halfway point to the $1.6 million goal to fund the renovation and equipping of a new library. 

“Most of the donors are located right in Bigfork,” Charlotte Housel, executive director of ImagineIF Library Foundation, said. “It’s been a tremendous outpouring from Bigfork specifically — it’s really the little town that can.”

The new library will be a 6,000-square-foot building behind Bethany Lutheran Church on Montana Highway 35, which the ImagineIF Library Foundation purchased in 2018. 

The current home of the Bigfork library is within the Bigfork Museum of Art and History on Electric Avenue and takes up just 1,440 square feet, has limited parking and isn’t ADA compliant, making it nearly inaccessible to patrons with physical limitations. 

The road to the new library has been long and rocky since the county initially proposed it in 2007. Voters twice rejected the bond that would have covered the cost of the project and in 2019, after the purchase of the new building, the Flathead County Commission removed a proposed $1.6 million Bigfork library renovation from the county’s capital improvement program.

According to Housel, there are two hurdles that still need to be cleared: the hiring of a new library director and the official property transfer.  

“The library director is a partner in helping to do outreach for major giving on a capital project,” Housel said. “The director helps donors, grant makers and anyone involved in the project understand what the library does for a community and how services will be provided in the facility.”

Because the foundation doesn’t want to own a library branch, the building will be gifted to either the county, or the ImagineIF Library system itself depending on how the library Board of Trustees and the county commission decides to move forward. 

At the Dec. 2 meeting of the library board of trustees, board members Doug Adams and Heidi Roedel relayed to the board their meetings with the county commissioners, which Adams described as “encouraging.”

“I think their biggest thing is not wanting to saddle the taxpayers with unexpected expenses,” Adams said. “We talked about possible ways to pay for such things, as well as paying for additional staff to work to hire at the large library. The bottom line is I think we’re on track. We’re moving along, even though we might not be moving along as fast as we’d like.”

Housel said the foundation is working to draft the preliminary property transfer agreement to be ready as soon a decision is finalized, which she says will mobilize the final fundraising push. 

“Several major donors are watching and waiting on a resolution about how the new Bigfork Library will be owned and maintained,” Housel said. “As soon as we can arrive at an agreement, they’re ready with the funds to complete the project.”

To learn more about the fundraising campaign and to donate visit www.imagineiflibraryfoundation.org/newbigforklibrary

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.