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Library Sees Resignations Following Bullet-Riddled Books

Former staff cite concerns over personal safety as reason for leaving

By Micah Drew
Library advisor Ben Mason shelves books at ImagineIF Library in Kalispell on Oct. 8, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Two ImagineIF library advisors have resigned from their posts due to perceived threats to their safety after several bullet-riddled books were dropped off at the library earlier this month. A third advisor who had previously planned to retire this year, also mentioned safety concerns upon leaving.

On Aug. 3, library staff in Kalispell found five books left in the overnight drop box that appeared to have been shot with a firearm. All library branches closed for the day while law enforcement investigated. They determined it was an isolated incident and there was no threat to staff or the public. 

Two days later, two more books were found with bullets lodged in them. Library staff say that similar markings on the books indicated they were likely from the same person. 

While director Ashley Cummins said law enforcement still did not feel there was any threat to the community, members of the library staff opted to leave their positions. 

“They said they did not feel safe coming to work anymore,” Cummins said. “They signed up to be library workers, they didn’t sign up for that.”

Two additional staff members have expressed desires to resign as well, but Cummins said so far that has not happened. Instead, the director is working to reassure the staff with new safety precautions including the installation of security cameras around each library branch and new mandatory monthly safety trainings. 

“I’m attempting to promote the positive interactions and aspects of our daily work,” Cummins told the ImagineIF Board of Trustees at their Aug. 24 meeting. 

“I’m hoping to continue working to smooth things over in the community,” Cummins told the Beacon. “Then hopefully we won’t have to deal with this anymore.” 

While law enforcement has found no connection between the shot books and recent aggressive rhetoric at board meetings by members of the public, the resignations highlight continued fallout for ImagineIF that can be traced back to trustee actions over the last year, including attempting to remove LGBTQ+ books from the library’s collection. 

At the trustee meeting, the fiscal year budget showed a budget surplus of $122,137.27. The savings came entirely from salary line items due to resignations and unfilled vacancies over the last year. 

This article has been updated to clarify the number and scope of the resignations.

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