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Library board rudderless in pursuit of new location

by Daily Inter Lake
| July 23, 2023 12:00 AM

ImagineIf Libraries board is set on finding a new home for its Kalispell branch, but appear directionless in their pursuit without a map to follow.

Last week, board trustees Jane Wheeler and Carmen Cuthbertson appealed to Kalispell City Council to consider making the city-owned Depot Park building and surrounding property available as a potential site for a new library. They described the downtown plot, recently vacated by the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, as an attractive alternative given its location in the city core and proximity to the Parkline Trail.

But just three months ago, the library board was mulling over space at Gateway Community Center — a location in an old mall that is strikingly different from the historic structure at Depot Park.

That deal never materialized, thankfully, as it was an all-round unpopular option, but inquiry in the two contrasting properties reveals a rudderless library board floating in a sea of real estate as the clock ticks down on the library’s current lease.

The Kalispell branch is currently housed in a former post office building — owned by Kalispell Public Schools — located downtown on First Avenue East. The library’s lease expires in 10 years, but trustees are looking for a new home sooner, with the status of the First Avenue East location uncertain.

While time is a factor, the ImagineIF board would be wise to slow down and create a relocation plan that lays out space and location necessities, and — ahem — budgetary considerations.

Instead of flying by the seat of their pants, trustees could lean on this blueprint to thoughtfully identify appropriate real estate options. Ultimately, this will expedite the relocation process while ensuring residents are getting the most out of their tax dollars.

The Depot Park space might just be the perfect landing destination for the Kalispell branch, but without a relocation plan to follow, the library board is just throwing darts at a map.