Guest Column

What is Motivating the Library Trustees To Do So Much Harm?

If you care about your library specifically and your freedom to choose reading matter without prejudice or hindrance, take action

By John Gates

Hopefully, the people of the Flathead Valley are paying attention right now to their library, because it is about to be lost. If it is not lost entirely, it will be morphed into a censored shadow of the wonderful facility that has served this valley for so long. With the library’s board of trustees’ recent choice is an entirely unqualified director, our enormous question should be: Why? Their decision is costly, both monetarily and in accreditation. What would motivate trustees, who are directed by policy to support the library system, to do this much harm? The existing staff is already overburdened and experiencing low morale; they’ve lost two directors in less than a year, and they are involved in a materials challenge. Why would Mr. Adams, Dr. Ingram and Ms. Roedel feel this is the time to carve this beloved institution down to the bone? Where is the support and trust? What is gained by their thoughtless and downright odious action?

None of this makes any sense, unless one realizes who appointed these people – the Flathead County commissioners. Ignoring recommendations from the library staff, the county commissioners were determined to salt the library board with sycophantic right-wingers who don’t appear to have clear understanding about the freedom and privacy a library system provides. And if the people of this county are paying attention to the general atmosphere in Montana, you are seeing one more autocratic “conservative” force eager to wipe out the freedoms of any institution, group or person with whom they do not agree. Why? The public needs to understand what is gained by these actions, and why.

If you care about your library specifically and your freedom to choose reading matter without prejudice or hindrance, take action. Six people in this county – trustees and commissioners – should not be able to cause this much hardship, chaos and destruction. Attend the next library board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 13, at 9 a.m. at the Kalispell branch, but don’t expect to participate; you are only allowed two minutes to address the board at the beginning of the meeting. Send a message to the commissioners but don’t expect a response; their meetings are also designed to stifle public input. As citizens, we need to follow the narrow, allowed pathways to exercise our rights and to express our needs, and our greatest need right now is thoughtful leadership.

Joan Gates is the treasurer for Friends of ImagineIF Libraries.

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