Meetings set on Lincoln County library initiative

Lincoln County Libraries

Libraries in Lincoln County, Montana, will each hold public informational meetings next week on a county resolution to put an initiative to create and fund a county library taxing district which would help maintain and improve library services available through county libraries in Troy, Eureka and Libby.

If approved, property taxes on each $200,000 of appraised home value would increase by about $36.42, which would allow expansion of library hours and services, provide computer and technology classes, buy more books and materials and expand programs at all levels. You can learn more about .

“Lincoln County Library is at a crossroads” they write. “The library is operating at the minimal State Library standards and yet continues to sustain cuts to its budget. The community values the library, but it is not adequately financially supported to provide the quality library services that our community deserves.”

Library funding was cut in 2017 causing the Library to run on minimal staff and a reduced operations budget. Over the past 5 years, the Lincoln County Library has struggled to meet the rising costs associated with personnel and operations within the confines of a fairly stagnant budget. The Lincoln County Library Foundation and Friends of the Library have worked hard to cover gaps in funding through donations and grants, but this model is unsustainable. This year, the Library’s budget was reduced an additional $17,000. This reduction has pushed the library board into serious discussions about closing branches and reducing services.

Additionally, the Lincoln County Library has struggled to meet the minimum Montana State Public Library standards—specifically the standard requiring a Library serving a community between 10,000 and 24,999 people to be open for service at least 40 hours per week. This requirement is for the main branch (Libby). Service hours provided by the Eureka and Troy branches do not count towards this standard. Not meeting standards will mean a loss of about $14,000/year.

When the services of the Lincoln County Library are compared to the services provided in the other medium-sized communities in the State, Lincoln County Library falls far short. The Library is run by fewer staff, open fewer hours, and has the smallest budget. The greatest challenge to the Lincoln County Library’s budget is maintaining and operating 3 branch facilities. Comparable libraries in the State typically operate with 1 facility.

Lincoln County is currently unable to increase the funds provided to the Library through the existing funding mechanisms. This year, Lincoln County faced a $1.6 million deficit in tax revenues, which was covered by ARPA monies. This money is now gone. With increasing costs and almost flat (and likely reduced) funding, our current funding model isn’t adequate to provide the quality Library services that our community deserves. The library board feels that moving to a library district model is the best way to secure the best future for the library and library services.

Each meeting will be held at 5 p.m., with the Libby branch meeting on Monday, February 12, the meeting at the Troy branch on Tuesday and at the Eureka Branch on Thursday. Those wishing to submit comment should send them to county clerk/recorder Corrina Brown at cbrown@libby.org.

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