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Guest Column

Answering Questions About the Library

We understand that stable library funding is a concern for many in the community, and it’s important that we hear from you

By ImagineIF Libraries Staff

We are aware of the concern about the loss of certification by the Montana State Library (MSL) and the resulting loss of state funding. We have a responsibility to be open about what the loss of certification means, and how it may impact library services. 

We imagine you might be thinking the following: 

• “Does this mean that we won’t have access to eBooks and Audiobooks from MontanaLibrary2Go?” 

• “Now I won’t be able to get books from Partner Libraries like Missoula, Miles City, etc.” 

• “The library’s budget is getting cut by the Montana State Library.” 

Montana Libraries are certified by the Montana State Library annually when they meet the essential standards defined by the State Library Commission. These standards are part of the Administrative Rules of Montana, and address topics including Library Policies, open hours, and so on. A comprehensive list of the standards can be found in Administrative Rule Subchapter 10.102. 

One of these rules (Rule 10.102.1150E) requires that libraries who serve more than 25,000 people employ a library director with “a graduate degree in Library or Information Science or its equivalent.” ImagineIF Library staff and Trustees have had multiple conversations with the Montana State Library in order to confirm that because the incoming director does not yet have the required degree, we will not be eligible for certification as of July 2022. 

So, what about the funding? By Montana Law (MCA 22-1-103), the State Library Commission distributes state aid to Public Libraries on a per-capita basis.  In order to receive state funding, Public Libraries must abide by the standards set by the Library Commission. Without certification, ImagineIF Libraries is no longer eligible for $35,731.41 in Fiscal Year 2023. 

Does the loss of certification affect other services? No. Library staff have consulted numerous times with Montana State Library consultants, and directly with State Librarian Jennie Stapp, to affirm that our access to all other shared services administered by MSL are unaffected. 

For users, that means you will have the same access to services, including: 

• eBooks and Audiobooks through MontanaLibrary2Go, 

• Over 500,000 items held by our Partner libraries, 

• Searching a discovery through the Montana Shared Catalog, 

• Cultural and historical resources from the Montana Memory Project, 

For staff, this means that we will continue to have access to Montana State Library and Montana Shared Catalog staff to ensure that we continue to offer the excellent library services you are accustomed to. 

What does this mean for the library budget? Library finances are under the exclusive purview of the ImagineIF Library Board of Trustees. The intent of this is to ensure that library services remain free of governmental influence and are managed by the community that we serve. The budget is generally developed by the Trustees in close cooperation with ImagineIF Library staff and the Flathead County Commission. 

Providing adequate funding for the library is one of the fundamental responsibilities of the Board of Trustees, and is codified in Montana Law. The activities of the Finance Committee, which includes ImagineIF staff, are open to the public, and we encourage public participation in this process. 

We understand that stable library funding is a concern for many in the community, and it’s important that we hear from you. Please contact us with your questions, concerns, or ideas through any of the channels below: 

Email: asklib@imagineiflibraries.org  

Website: https://imagineiflibraries.org/your-library/contact-us/ 

Mail: 247 1st Ave E., Kalispell, MT 59901 

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