Cuts to State Library will be felt in communities across Montana

Dear Editor,

It is our responsibility to open a dialogue about the 2017 Executive and Legislative cuts to the Montana State Library. We must also speak out about HB 261, reductions to the state’s public libraries, and the real impact to the people in our state and library patrons in Montana.  

Libraries are an essential service, no matter the size of the town and regardless of the size of the library. Libraries are safety nets for our vulnerable populations. As services are reduced at the state level and people’s household budgets are stretched, citizens rely on their local public library to fill the gaps.   

Libraries are the great equalizer in our society, giving every citizen the same opportunity to learn and the same access to information and materials, regardless of economic level or lack of technology at home.

Libraries and librarians assist people looking for jobs, helping them complete job applications. Libraries and librarians provide people the resources to file their taxes. Libraries and librarians support people filing for unemployment. Libraries and librarians provide a safe place for youth to learn and grow. These are essential services supporting economic development and providing a positive quality of life. These are some of the services provided by libraries to the patrons in our communities. 

Not only are libraries the most reliable source of accurate information, they are also community centers. In spite of the internet and the overwhelming amount of information available to people at home, libraries are being used more than ever as community hubs and safe locations for the exploration of ideas.  

The reductions to the Montana State Library budget will ripple throughout Montana like a stone thrown into a pond, affecting all public libraries and library patrons in the state. The Montana State Library is in an untenable position. It would be impossible for a small and fiscally responsible agency to absorb nearly $1 million in potential budget reductions without cutting services. The State Library will be reducing both staff and resources. The decreases to the talking book library, the loss of the reading room, cuts to the GIS program, and the elimination of training for librarians are the painful options available to meet the required budget reductions. 

Our State Library staff and librarians throughout the state will strive to continue to meet the needs of our citizenry, but the budget reductions are a step in the wrong direction and will hamper our efforts and our ability to grow, evolve, and progress.  

Sincerely, 

Montana Library Association of Board of Directors 

Lisa M. Jackson, Elizabeth Jonkel, 

Dawn Kingstad, Mary Guthmiller, 

Aaron LaFromboise, Kit Stephenson,

 Dianne Mattila, Angela Achuleta, 

Matt Beckstrom, Rachel Rawn, Carmen Clark, Gavin Woltjer

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