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ImagineIF Libraries returns to original Flathead County Libraries name, Dugan hired as new director

by TAYLOR INMAN
| February 28, 2024 2:00 AM

Imagine if the library system changed its name back to Flathead County Libraries? 

On Thursday, it did.

The library system’s board of trustees voted to drop the ImagineIF Libraries brand and revert back a moniker last used a decade ago.

Implementation of the change will occur over the course of two years, according to the motion passed. Flathead County Library Director Teri Dugan said the timeline is in line with how long it took the library system to rebrand as ImagineIF in 2014. She said employees had mixed opinions on the proposed change and asked for time to implement it. 

“I would ask for a year or more, maybe a year at least, to get this rolled out,” Dugan said. 

Vice Chair Carmen Cuthbertson posed the idea to return to Flathead County Libraries at last month’s meeting. She said it’s confusing for patrons, a sentiment shared by people who spoke during public comment as well as the other trustees. 

“Ten years later, people are still clueless about what ImagineIF is supposed to tell them, you know, does it mean we're part of a national library branch? I was asked that question,” Cuthbertson said. “Obviously, the public doesn't know what to make of it. I'm thinking rather than doing publicity campaigns to educate so they understand what ImagineIF means, let's just go back to what all members of the public are totally clear on. As far as the meaning is concerned, everybody knows what Flathead County Library means.”

According to a 2014 Daily Inter Lake article about the rebranding, former Library Director Kim Crowley said libraries are “launching pads” for dreams and ideas. Crowley and her staff, along with the library board at that time, wanted to develop a brand that would establish the library as a social gathering spot in the community.

Those who spoke at the Feb. 22 meeting offered mixed reactions. Brad Krantz of Somers said he supports the change “because it brings clarity.” Others said they were never confused about the name, like Melissa Wood, who said she’s always understood the name refers to the county library system. 

There were also concerns raised about the cost of changing the name. Trustee Jane Wheeler said she believes the logistics needed to be worked out before they voted on the matter. 

“So that's my opinion, I think it needs a little bit more study,” Wheeler said. “Secondly, I think if we decide to do this, we need to reflect it in our budget. We need to say this is what it's going to cost us to do this, or at least an estimate, and put it in next year's budget because this is going to be a year long project and it’s got to be financed.”

Valeri McGarvey, speaking during public comment, also inquired about the cost. She said even stickers inside the covers of books at the library include the ImagineIF logo and lamented the work that would have to go into changing back the name. 

“I’m very interested in knowing what the cost is as a taxpayer, especially as this library has lost revenue over the past few years and the county has not been excited about supporting this library,” McGarvey said. 

Cuthbertson defended her position, saying that the name change wouldn’t be the same as the entire rebrand the library went through a decade ago and therefore wouldn’t be as expensive. She said she checked out a book recently that had a Flathead County Library sticker inside the cover instead of ImagineIF, adding that staff wouldn’t need to erase every trace of the name. 

“That we'd have to spend a lot of money and time on scratching off all the little tags on our books and putting new ones on, that was not done 10 years ago and that's not something we need to do now,” Cuthbertson said. “I think this is a commonsense change in the best interest of our patrons.” 

She said the organization still owns the website domain name for Flathead County Libraries and listed other low-cost or no-cost changes like editing the name on social media accounts. But there was no clear estimate given on what the name change will cost. 

According to a Daily Inter Lake article from that time, the ImagineIF Foundation gave $40,000 for the library to work with Ricochet Ideas, a consulting firm in Denver, to create a new brand for the system.

During Thursday’s meeting, ImagineIF Foundation Director Sara Busse asked trustees to table the discussion until the nonprofit partner had a chance to discuss it at their own board meeting. The organization follows suit with branding changes made at the library system and changed its name soon after the decision was made in 2014 to become ImagineIF Libraries. During this discussion, Trustee Heidi Roedel mentioned it might be important to make a decision on the name ahead of the new Bigfork library opening, as they would want to change signage and other items related to the name. 

Trustees moved ahead with a vote, with the motion passing 3-1 approving the name change. Wheeler voted against and Trustee Doug Adams was absent. Wheeler said during her vote that she thinks they “just need a little bit more time to work through it.”

The boars also voted to appoint Dugan to the director’s position during Thursday’s meeting. Dugan previously served as the library’s office administrator, but has been the interim director since Ashley Cummins left the post in October. 

“It has essentially been four months since [Dugan] has taken over the day-to-day responsibilities of managing the library system. During that time, she has provided a smooth transition of the library direction,” said Board Chair David Ingram. “I feel that a resume including the education degree teaching certificates along with multiple library certifications, and 12 years of experience combined with the report that she has developed with staff, various departments, foundation, friends, commissioners and the trustees makes her an obvious selection.”

Ingram said Dugan has the ability to work with many parties surrounding library operations, a sentiment echoed by Cuthbertson. 

Annica Stivers, a library advisor with Flathead County Libraries, spoke during public comment about the decision to hire Dugan. She pressed the importance of getting a master’s degree in library sciences. She said her own degree gave her “an incredible amount of legal and technical knowledge” about libraries. 

That being said, she told the board she is fully “Team Teri.” 

“I think opening the position up would have put a lot of unneeded stress on the staff and the community. [Dugan] has really proven herself over the last few months, and I just want to reassure folks who don’t work with her that she's doing an incredible job and she's working incredibly hard,” Stivers said, adding that the staff “really love her.” 

Dugan said she “humbly accepts” and is grateful for the opportunity, also voicing her appreciation for the support of library staff. 

The Flathead County Library Board of Trustees petitioned the state last year to do away with its education requirement, which said that library directors serving large populations should hold a master’s degree. Dugan does not hold a master’s degree, but holds a bachelor’s degree, and has held teaching certificates in both California and Montana. She has also received two library administration certifications between 2013 to 2023 and is currently 75% of the way on her third. 

Trustees voted unanimously to hire Dugan, but included a stipulation to replace her previous role, creating an office coordinator position. There was concern among trustees and members of the public that it was unsustainable to have Dugan juggling so many duties. 

Ingram said they waited to fill the position until Dugan was officially in her new role, but have already begun working with the Flathead County Human Resources Department on the job description to start the hiring process.