The Plains Public Library celebrated its centennial in style last Saturday, Aug. 18 with a book sale, raffle, silent auction and kids’ games just outside the facility on West Railroad Avenue.
Everyone who attended the open house celebration received souvenirs to mark the centennial. Commemorative mugs were also available.
A highlight of the 100th anniversary event was a performance by Sweet Adelines from the Five Valley Chorus in Missoula.
Carrie Terrell is in her 26th year as library director. She came on board the year after the library was moved into what had been the L&O Motors building in 1983. It was purchased with grant money and generous contributions from the community. At that time, the library became an Interlocal District Library.
IDL is an agreement between the county and the city to support the library district.
“We are the oldest library in Sanders County,” Terrell said. “It was started a young mothers group that felt back in 1918 that it was very valuable that the kids have books that they can share and read. A lot of people didn’t have that (books) back then. In 1918, the city started giving money to the library, and here we are.”
Marian Coulter, daughter of postmaster H.L. Coulter was the first Plains librarian. Terrell is the 10th librarian in the Plains library’s first 100 years.
In the early years, the library was supported by a small city levy of 1 ½ mills and proceeds from an annual library benefit.
This is the fourth location for the Plains Library. The first site was the McGowan building where the Masonic kitchen was located. Next, the library was in the First National Bank building. Upon completion of Plains City Hall in 1937, it was moved there and was in place for 46 years before moving to the current location.
“The whole community got together and they moved from city hall,” Ferrell explained, “and just about everybody in town donated toward it. And they got some grant money and purchased the building, shelving, and it’s been growing ever since.”
Rural Plains resident Terry Melton and other Northern Rockies Blacksmithing Association build the iron gate that separates the public part of the library from the office space. The gate, built at the home of Terry and his wife, Jean, was installed in 2006.
THE LIBRARY is now governed by the Plains Public Library District, which has a five-person board. Andy Gonzalez is the board president, and other members are Nora Verpoorten, Don Stamm, Judy Hawley and Lisa Fried de Reyes. Library staffers are Linda Hanks and Linda Bursell.
Funding for the library comes from the Plains Public Library District Foundation, with money coming from donations from individuals and businesses.
An additional mill levy from the county came about around 10 years ago.
“We were able to be open more hours and pay the staff a little bit more,” Terrell said. “We were able to have Montana library2go.” That facilitates e-books.
Currently, it’s a 16-mill levy.
Terrell spoke about the positive impact the library has on the community.
“I think it has a large impact because a lot of people don’t have Internet access,” she said Saturday. One of the free Internet uses is to post resumes while in search of jobs. “They come from Thompson (Falls), they come from St. Regis and all over. With the Montana Shared Catalog system we can get things for them from other libraries.”
GONZALEZ HAS been on the library district board for nearly eight years, after moving to Plains about a year earlier.
“I used the library and got to know the people,” he said during the anniversary celebration. He was appointed to the board, and was elected board president early in 2017.
“It’s a great experience to help the community. Libraries are very important in this age of technology,” he said. “Libraries serve a very important role in the community, not just in books, but with Internet service, computers and sharing catalogs. We have a WiFi system that’s free to the public.”
Gonzalez spoke about the library building and exterior property.
“We just had the parking lot redone,” he said. “It’s nice to have this in a small community.”
Last year, the graveled parking lot was paved and striped for parking.
That was made possible primarily by the Plains Public Library District Foundation. The Town of Plains provides snow removal in winter.
BY NECESSITY, libraries have changed over the years.
“We’re not only books anymore. We have DVDs. In Plains, all the DVD stores went out of business, and so the library was it,” Terrell said. “So they got a Red Box at the Town Pump.
“Our DVD section, a lot of people just donated towards it. The community saw the need and helped us out with it. So it’s been really great.”
Programs: We do a summer reading program for youth. From time to time, we do various programs,” Terrell said. “We have a lot of local talent, and we have crafts and games throughout the year.”
Sanders County has a number of book authors, and the library hosts book signings.
Funding for such local entities as libraries has been reduced over recent years, not just in Sanders County but statewide and nationwide.
“We have to pick and choose,” she said of what will be funded. “There is just not enough money to do everything.”
Terrell gave credit to the Plains Public Library District Friends group.
“They are extremely valuable. They actually raise the money. Like if we need a new computer or typewriter, through their book sales, and they help us bring in authors,” Terrell said.
Library board members Stamm and Hawley, who served free popcorn during the celebration, had words of praise for Terrell. “Carrie, she’s our hero,” Stamm said.
The library is on summer hours right now. They are open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and Thursdays noon to 7 p.m. During the school year, hours are Mondays and Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays noon to 7 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon.