The Glacier County Commissioners listened to Glacier County Library Director Jamie Greco, Assistant Director Vananda Yazzie, and advocates of the Browning branch of the Glacier County Library express their support to keep the branch library open during the Commissioners’ May 7 meeting in Cut Bank.
“It’s important to know we’re not going to close the library,” assured Glacier County Commissioner Tom McKay, stating Department of Administration officials “brought up ideas” for the commissioners to consider in order to eliminate expenses. Commissioner John Overcast also voiced support for keeping the branch library open.
Commission Chairman Michael DesRosier stated, “I don’t want to close or eliminate the library that services my community.”
Crystal Evans, the newest member of the Glacier County Library Board, which serves as the official governing board of the library and its branches, voiced her concern that DesRosier’s comments during the discussion “doesn’t sound impartial at all” and appeared to advocate closing the branch library and relocating/consolidating with the academic library at Blackfeet Community College (BCC).
DesRosier opened the meeting and discussion stating there has been some “questions” and “suggestions” about combining the County’s branch library in Browning with BCC’s library.
Greco cited several concerns with combining both libraries, including location, the availability of services, hours, etc., to non-BCC students, the difference between the atmosphere of a community library vs. an academic library, the ability of BCC’s library and staff to take on additional community-related services now provided by the county library, and the lack of savings to the County.
She also reminded the Commissioners, as she has in the past, that state law provides “exclusive control” of the county library falls to the trustees on the Library Board and not the County Commissioners.
Greco invited the Commissioners to attend a Library Board meeting to discuss any possible merger with BCC’s library. “We have dealt with rumors for two years with people saying that BCC is taking over the Browning library,” she informed the Commissioners.
“We’ll have to meet with the college first,” responded DesRosier.
“I don’t understand the need for discussions with BCC until you discuss this with the Library Board,” replied Greco.
Greco proposed the Commissioners utilize the Browning branch library location to house the County’s satellite offices, saving the $1,000 in monthly rent, which the County pays to Pat Schildt for office space.
Greco pointed out the branch library is more centrally located than the present Satellite Office location and would be more convenient for patrons who must walk to obtain those county services and would be beneficial in introducing non-library users to the many services available.
“There’s plenty of room on the lot to eventually add on and make a community center for Browning. That’s what I would love to see happen,” she stated. But that is in the future, given the County’s financial position.
She pointed out the library’s computers are in constant use not only for entertainment, but also by residents for on-line bill paying, applying for services and jobs, etc. The library leaves the Internet access on even when the library is not open, which allows people to utilize it even when the library is not open.
DesRosier stated BCC, the tribally-owned hotel and casino in Browning all offer free access to Wi-Fi for individuals who aren’t students or staying at the facility. Browning community members who attended the meeting, said that isn’t the case. They also pointed out not everyone can use the BCC library, which has security guards to limit access.
DesRosier said county officials have not discussed anything with BCC yet, but BCC “has had a brief discussion” on merging services. He then stated, “I’ll meet with them more” and “maybe have them here to discuss this.”
Yazzie stated, “I would appreciate if I was also included in future discussions.” She said since she has worked in the branch library, she has only seen one Commissioner in there twice and encouraged the Commissioners to “listen to the voice of the community” and those who utilize the library’s many services.
She also pointed out if the library was under BCC, it would be closed whenever Blackfeet Tribal Offices are closed, further limiting access to residents. Both she and Greco stated the branch county library and BCC’s academic library use two totally different catalog systems for their inventories.
Local resident and former teacher Linda Luther said the branch library “caters to children and kids need access to books.” She said small children would not be welcome in an academic college library setting.
Browning resident Leland Crawford questioned, “Why do the Indians have to suffer because of the financial woes of Glacier County?” referring to the possible closure of the branch library and the impact on local children and residents.
“Why not just move the Satellite Office back and don’t take our library?” he questioned. Crawford, a student at BCC, questioned where he would go to study and use computers if another 300 people were allowed access to the BCC library.
“Why do we, as Indian People, have to sacrifice for the financial woes that happen at this table,” he asked the Commissioners. “Try something else…don’t take the library. Let us have our library.”
Before the discussion concluded, Greco once again reminded the Commissioners the governance of the Glacier County Library and its branches are up to the trustees that serve on the Library Board.