Library Board delays decision on Bookmobile naming until library naming request decided
The Great Falls Public Library board made no decision regarding the naming of the new Bookmobile during their March 3 meeting.
The board scheduled the special meeting after deciding during a Feb. 23 meeting to postpone a decision on the request to rename the library building for Alma Jacobs, who served as head librarian at the Great Falls Public Library and the state librarian, both historic firsts for a Black woman during her time.
During the February meeting, the suggestion was made to consider as an alternative to name the Bookmobile for Jacobs since the library’s new one is being built and the graphics are currently being finalized.
The board scheduled the special meeting for March 2 to consider that idea, but in the meantime, board members realized they hadn’t followed the process detailed in their naming policy that the board adopted in January.
That policy requires a formal naming proposal and giving the public at least 30 days notice before a meeting to consider the request. The naming policy was adopted after Ken Robison, local historian, submitted a request in December asking the library to be renamed for Jacobs.
Whitney Olson, board chair, said that since the request was to rename the building and naming the Bookmobile was given as an alternative, the conversation “feels a bit reactionary.”
The board decided to postpone a decision on renaming the library until the staff and board could gather broader community input, but no timeline has been set for that process.
Olson will be appointing a subcommittee to gather community input on the proposal. Once the subcommittee has gathered the community input, they will make a report to the board and then the board will follow the naming policy guidelines, according to Susie McIntyre, library director.
Part of the rush to consider the naming was that the graphics for the Bookmobile are currently being finalized and the board wanted to avoid adding cost to change the name later.
The board determined that it made more sense to wait on naming the Bookmobile until a decision is made regarding the naming request for the building.
Olson said she talked to a local graphics company to get estimates and they said that to rewrap the entire vehicle would cost about $6,500, to replace the front panel over the driver’s cab would cost about $400 and to add vinyl to the side and back if the name was changed would be about $250.
The Great Falls Public Library Foundation has been fundraising for the Bookmobile, which costs about $198,000.
The foundation’s marketing committee has been serving as the Bookmobile Campaign Committee and is meeting next week to make decisions regarding the graphics, which may include a picture of Jacobs, but not designate or imply that the vehicle is named after her, according to McIntyre.
The current Bookmobile was purchased in 1999 with the help of an anonymous $135,000 donation.
Bookmobile services in Cascade County began as a Works Progress Administration project in 1940, and were taken up by the Great Falls Public Library in 1956, around the time Jacobs became head librarian.
“Bookmobile service in the city was a continuance of years of rural library service, including the Cascade County Library WPA bookmobile and bookmobile services in other communities around the state. An early form of bookmobile service began in 1921 when the general manager of the Anaconda Company’s Lumber Division had given the Missoula County librarian permission to leave books at the company’s headquarters and camps in Bonner, in addition to a hotel where many of the company’s crews stayed. Within a year, the service had proven such a success that the general manager arranged for construction of a special railroad car to carry books, magazines and newspapers to the company’s camps throughout the western part of the state,” according the library’s history.