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Choose excellence, not chaos, for libraries

by Sean Anderson
| November 21, 2023 12:00 AM

Good libraries are not just a convenience; they are fundamentally American, reflecting a commitment to knowledge, community service and progress.

In Montana, where self-reliance and community values are cherished, our public libraries have long been beacons, designed to serve all Montanans. Unfortunately, recent proposals to alter the public library standards, influenced by years of mismanagement by the ImagineIF Libraries Board of Trustees, now threaten the stability of Montana’s public library system. 

The recent proposal to eliminate the graduate degree requirement for library directors raises serious concerns about the future of library leadership and the services our community expects. The ImagineIF board’s pursuit of a lower standard for their library director has now affected the State Library Commission, creating a race to the bottom that does a disservice to all Montanans. 

As fiercely independent-minded Montanans, we should expect more from our public leaders. Excellence should be the standard, not a casualty in a misguided contest to waste time, money and ink merely to denigrate a cornerstone of American democracy. The self-inflicted chaos that has plagued Flathead County’s libraries now threatens to infect each library in the state.

Public libraries are rooted in community service and are not isolated entities. Decisions made by one library’s leadership can have far-reaching consequences. As citizens who value the stability and integrity of our libraries, it is crucial that we use our voice to demand the excellence we deserve from our public services and ensure that our public libraries remain stable, reliable, and true to their mission of serving all Montanans and their communities.

The public comment period for the proposed changes to the public library standards is open through Dec. 1. Please take a few minutes to ask for the public library standards to remain as they are. Demand that accountability, stability and a commitment to excellence remain the standard for our public leaders. Expect that the State Library Commission act in support of Montana’s libraries and library users, and not in service to their personal partisan agendas.

Your voice matters in preserving the integrity of Montana’s libraries. Let’s ensure that the State Library Commission hears a resounding call to leave the public library standards unchanged. Together, we can safeguard the future of our libraries, reinforcing their role as beacons of knowledge and community service for all Montanans.

Sean Anderson is the former assistant library director for ImagineIF Libraries.