Credit: Montana State Library

This story is excerpted from the MT Lowdown, a weekly newsletter digest containing original reporting and analysis published every Friday.

“Despite generations of collaboration, we are deeply concerned that the Commission has lost its way. We passed this resolution to make clear our belief that common ground exists, and that MLA remains committed to the health and longevity of library services in Montana.”

— Montana Library Association President Kelly Reisig in a Nov. 13 statement addressing the Montana State Library Commission’s recent move to eliminate an educational standard for directors of the state’s seven largest libraries.

Last month, the commission advanced a regulation striking a longstanding requirement that those large library directors hold a master’s degree in library or information science, with supporters of the change arguing that such standards should rightly be established by local library boards. Those supporters included board members from Kalispell’s ImagineIF Library, which last year became the only large library in Montana to employ a director who did not meet the standard, resulting in the loss of more than $35,000 in state funding.

In response, the MLA’s executive board adopted a resolution this week declaring that the commission’s decision has “denigrated the standing of Montana’s library professionals and put the future of library services in Montana at risk.” The association vowed to recognize the importance of local control while continuing to uphold the “highest standards of professionalism,” and urged the commission and other stakeholders to “find common ground, address concerns, and work together to ensure the continued success of Montana’s libraries.” 

The Montana State Library Commission is taking public comment on the master’s degree requirement until Dec. 1.


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Alex Sakariassen is a 2008 graduate of the University of Montana's School of Journalism, where he worked for four years at the Montana Kaimin student newspaper and cut his journalistic teeth as a paid news intern for the Choteau Acantha for two summers. After obtaining his bachelor's degree in journalism and history, Sakariassen spent nearly 10 years covering environmental issues and state and federal politics for the alternative newsweekly Missoula Independent. He transitioned into freelance journalism following the Indy's abrupt shuttering in September 2018, writing in-depth features, breaking...