Sidney-Richland County Library Holds Meeting to Discuss Funding Needs

The Sidney-Richland County Library held an event dubbed "Montana Libraries: Unprecedented Times, Unprecedented Opportunities" on Sept 12 in the library basement. Representatives from the Montana Library Association and the Montana Trust for Libraries met with Richland County leaders and library board members to discuss the importance of renewing and expanding state aid for Montana libraries. State aid helps to fund downloadable ebooks and audiobooks; online access to Montana historical and cultural materials; and the statewide catalog used by 249 libraries to access 3.5 million shareable titles to be exchanged among participating library locations.

Montana Library Association and the Montana Trust for Libraries will be asking the 2023 Montana legislature for $5.4 million. This would increase direct state aid to public and tribal libraries from $.40 to $.50 per capita ($542,113). Approximately $1,090,00 would go to improving cooperative statewide library services to bring more convenient and cost effective library services to citizens across the state. Roughly $480,000 would be set aside to continue bringing the internet to under-connected Montanans through the Montana State Library Hotspot Program. The majority of the funds ($3,280,000) will be used to expand the scope and depth of online eBooks, audiobooks and databases.

All of these services are currently in use in the Sidney-Richland County Library. For instance, the hotspot program has served many residents, especially since the pandemic hit. There are currently nine hot spots in Sidney and at least 25 are needed. The hotspots are used by students, cancer patients and business travelers in need of a reliable internet connection. "It wasn't unusual for me to come by the library in the middle of the winter and there would be a family in a car with someone doing homework," said Sidney-Richland County Library Director Kelly Reisig. "That's not how we want our kids to have to do their homework but that is how they were doing it." The library keeps its wifi open for the public to use. The hotspots enable patrons to access the internet in a more convenient location.

Another service that could be expanded in our area would be the cooperative statewide library services, the Montana Shared Catalog and statewide courier. Having consistent funding for this service would greatly expand the ability for the Sidney-Richland County Library to gain access to a wider range of books for library users and reduce the delivery time it would take to receive the books from other libraries. "We have a courier that works pretty well for some of the libraries that are linked close together in the west. But not so much here or on the high line," stated Bruce Newell, Montana Trust for Libraries. "We don't have enough money to pay for a service to do that. It hasn't worked for a long time." Currently the Richland County library spends $5 per book to return them from the borrowing library. Under the courier service it is $5 per crate of books.

A more detailed breakdown of services funded by this proposal is available at


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