Guest Column

An Award-winning Library or a Joke?

The reality in Flathead County is that the library has a strong liberal bent in a county that is strongly center right

By Bob Herron

At the start of 2014 when the Flathead County Library changed its name to ImagineIF many of us in this community thought that it was a joke. Turns out that it wasn’t a joke. Why on earth did this name change happen? ImagineIF what? Imagine that you wanted to impact and direct community standards so that your views could become prevalent and other views were sidelined. Language is a powerful tool that can be and is used to push an agenda. Since 2014 a vocal minority of this community, supported by some in the media, has tried to influence this community. Fortunately, the silent majority is starting to wake up and show up. The reality in Flathead County is that the library has a strong liberal bent in a county that is strongly center right. The elected commissioners decided to appoint board members that more closely represented community standards. A citizen came to the board and presented a book challenge. The board decided to have a discussion and to consider the challenge. No books have been banned, there are copies of Gender Queer in our library and Lawn Boy still in our library. So, what’s the big deal? The library staff and the library foundation don’t want to give up their power and allow the library board to exercise its authority. This controversy is not about banning books and the First Amendment. This controversy is about who is in charge.

The citizens of this community along with elected officials and the library board are allowed to ask how certain books end up in the library. Is it totally up to the library director and the staff to pick books without any input from the community and the board of directors? In a recent Beacon article, the senior librarian Sean Anderson is quoted as saying “Moving towards the center is a conversation that can be had, but moving to an extreme position on one side or the other is not a conversation.”  I have two responses to Mr. Anderson, the community already thinks that the library has an extreme position on the left, my other response to this comment is “you can’t tell this community or the board the conversations that we can have, why are you trying to control others speech, I thought that you were an advocate of the First Amendment?”

Finally, Rep. Dave Fern of Whitefish wrote in a recent column that the library board has hired a “replacement director who lacks the training necessary to run a library of this size and quality.” Really Dave, let’s give the new director a chance, the last fully accredited directors have not done a great job. The standards set by the American Library Association are responsible for the mess we are in.

Bob Herron is a former Kalispell city councilor who now lives in Bigfork.