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County commissioners appoint librarian to ImagineIF board

Daily Inter Lake | October 4, 2022 12:00 AM

Flathead County Commissioners on Monday appointed Jane Wheeler to fill a seat on the ImagineIF Library Board of Trustees.

Wheeler was one of two applicants recommended to commissioners by the ImagineIF board to fill a vacancy left after Marsha Sultz resigned this summer. The appointment makes for a full ImagineIF board after recent controversies have prompted vacancies and frustrations from community members.

Commissioner Pam Holmquist thanked the applicants for their interest and gave her support for Wheeler, who was also brought before the board for another vacancy in June. Holmquist cited Wheeler’s experience with libraries as her reasoning for the pick.

Commissioner Brad Abell made a motion to appoint her, which then passed unanimously.

Sultz’s resignation was a result of the last ImagineIF Board appointment by commissioners. In June, they appointed Carmen Cuthbertson to the board, who was the first to challenge the book “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe. The challenge sparked intense community debate about what should be on library shelves. Sultz at the time of her resignation said she “did not like the direction that the board was heading.”

Book challenges have continued to be a contentious issue for the board.

Wheeler said she wishes the board could get past them.

“I wish that there was enough faith in the professionals at the library to choose and to vet books, so that they are not challenged and so that there will be faith in our professionals. That's my hope,” Wheeler told the Daily Inter Lake.

Wheeler’s career has centered around libraries. In her application, she noted her work in school and university libraries, as well as specialized science libraries. She said she is interested in learning more about how a public library runs and how it meshes with the county, and believes she has enough information as a former librarian to ask the right questions.

Wheeler has also served on the West Valley School Board and the Hockaday Museum of Art board.

Taaylr Claridge was the other applicant brought before the commissioners for consideration and had a large showing of support at Monday’s meeting. Claridge is a mom and a lifelong user of ImagineIF Libraries. According to her application, if she was appointed it would have been her first stint serving on a board.

Wheeler is set to take part in the ImagineIF Board’s strategic planning retreat scheduled for Oct. 4-5. Commissioners filled the appointment ahead or the retreat so the new trustee could be present, which will be used to update the library’s strategic plan.

Themeeting is set to take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Flathead County South Campus Conference room, 40 11th Street West in Kalispell. For more information on the retreat, contact ImagineIF’s Teri Dugan at 406-758-5821.