Update on funding for Montana’s libraries

Recently we asked you to submit public comment to the Montana State Library Commission in support of a $10M budgetary request from the Montana State Library to fund statewide resource sharing. Many of you heeded the call—thank you! The overwhelming majority of public comments received were from the Bozeman area.

The Library Commission met on April 17th to consider the request. Despite 100% public comment in support, the Commission did not approve forwarding the $10M request to the Governor’s office. We are very disappointed that the Commission, whose job it is to support Montana libraries, took this stance.

Montana Code Annotated 22-1-328 mandated in 2009 that the Library Commission shall establish a statewide interlibrary resource-sharing program, although there has never been dedicated funding. The current shared resources and funding model for services such as MontanaLibrary2Go, the Montana Shared Catalog, and a courier system has been built directly by the libraries themselves.  That we have been successful to this point is a testament to the collaborative spirit of Montana libraries.  Successful legislation will codify that hard work and make these resources available to each of Montana’s 1.1. million citizens.

Without this state funding, cost increases for these resources will be passed directly on to libraries and their operating budgets.  Big libraries with strong philanthropic support, such as the Bozeman Public Library, may be able to maintain service levels. Private foundation support can help to temporarily close this gap, but it is not a replacement for public funding. Rural Montana communities will struggle to maintain the same level of service. Many small libraries in the state are facing funding cuts from unsupportive municipalities, so paying more for the same services just won’t be an option. All Montanans deserve fair access to the same level of high-quality library services, regardless of where they live in the state or the size of their library budgets. 

The Montana Library Association (MLA), a group of professional librarians that provide training and support for libraries, plans to lobby the Governor to include this funding in his budget and, if necessary, carry the legislation in the 2025 session. We hope they are successful. The Bozeman Library Foundation will continue to work alongside MLA to advocate for funding for all libraries in our state.