ImagineIF Library Trustee Appointed to Montana State Library Commission

Carmen Cuthbertson will begin a three-year term on the board that oversees all state libraries, as well as broad information services for Montanans, including GIS

By Micah Drew
Board member Carmen Cuthbertson at an ImagineIF Libraries board meeting in Columbia Falls on Oct. 27, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Montana State Library Commission, the seven-person board that oversees the Montana State Library (MSL), will welcome Kalispell’s Carmen Cuthbertson as its newest member at their June 14 meeting.

The Commission is made up of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, an appointee from the Commission of Higher Education, and five members appointed by Gov. Greg Gianforte. “With a master’s degree in English Literature and Linguistics, and as a member of a local library board, Ms. Cuthbertson will bring a valuable perspective to the State Library Commission,” the Governor’s office wrote in a statement to the Beacon.

Cuthbertson currently serves as a library trustee for ImagineIF Libraries in the Flathead Valley.

“I’m excited to take on a little more responsibility,” Cuthbertson said. “With my degree in literature, it seems like a good fit. It’s something I really care about being involved with. I looked at other boards – water, Flathead Electric — and they just weren’t up my alley, but this is a passion.”

The MSL provides “answers about Montana’s government, natural resources, heritage, land ownership, and more,” according to its mission, and oversees statewide public libraries, as well as offers broad information services for Montanans.

There are no rules constraining a local library trustee or employee from serving simultaneously on the MSL Commission, though Cuthbertson said she would “certainly be able to recuse” herself from any decisions if necessary.

“The local library work is more important to me,” she said.

In 2022, Bruce Newell, a former MSL commissioner, resigned from his post after eight years, citing a conflict of interest due to becoming a vocal, and financial, supporter of the Flathead County Library Alliance, a group formed to support ImagineIF during a period of contention between library staff and the trustees.

Later in the year, Cuthbertson’s appointment to the ImagineIF board sparked additional backlash, leading to the resignation of another trustee. Prior to her appointment, Cuthbertson had been a vocal attendee at trustee meetings, routinely offering public comment. She was also the main proponent for removing the book “Gender Queer” from the library’s collection after filing a book challenge.

Cuthbertson has also submitted public comments on MSL Commission business, including over a divisive rebranding effort last year. A redesigned logo for the MSL, modeled on a prism diffusing light, was perceived by some commissioners as an allusion to an LGBTQ Pride flag and initially voted down. The logo was ultimately approved with an altered color scheme, but Cuthbertson was one of the few members of the public who expressed opposition to the move, stating it did not make her think of a library, and citing the rebranding effort’s cost.  Cuthbertson’s husband also submitted public comment about the logo redesign, calling it part of the “LGBTQRSP+ agenda.”

In her role as an ImagineIF trustee, Cuthbertson has helped spearhead the search for a new location for the Kalispell branch. She’s been a vocal advocate for keeping the library in the downtown city corridor and wants to see the next iteration of the library branch as an anchor in the community.

There are eight sites in the preliminary conversations for relocation, ranging from existing structures to empty lots that would require new construction. A recent addition to the list of possibilities is Depot Park, which is currently home to the city’s Chamber of Commerce. Depot Park is owned by the city of Kalispell and Cuthbertson said there have not yet been any discussions with city officials about the property.

The Flathead County Commissioners at their June 20 meeting will appoint a member to the ImagineIF Trustee Board. The trustees are recommending that current board member Jane Wheeler be reappointed.