Montana is divided up into six regions. Libraries within those regions have formed a federation. It's a formal and informal way to network and improve library services in Montana. Browse the Federation Notebook for additional information. The six federations are:


Federations receive funding through the Coal Severance Tax monies that the state receives. This money is divided amongst federations using a formula that is based upon population and evenly dividing the funding. ARM 10.102.5102 gives the specific formula.

FY 23 Federation Expense Dashboard


Federations are guided by a federation coordinator who is responsible for leading the federation and acting as a liaison between the Montana State Library and the federation. The Montana State Library also has a Federation Task Force responsible for reviewing the purpose, function, and goals of the federations.


MSL Consulting Resources


Advocacy is the actions individuals or organizations undertake to influence decision-making at the local, regional, state, national, and international level—that help create a desired policy or funding change in support of public libraries.  

- Public Library Association  
Turning the Page Supporting Libraries, Strengthening Communities 

Why advocacy matters? 
  • Libraries provide services that community members need.  

  • Provision of these services takes money. 

  • Not all local, state, and national leaders recognize the value of libraries or understand how the library contributes to the overall well-being of the community. 

  • Other leaders are strong advocates whose influence needs to be maintained and cultivated. 

  • Advocacy involves influencing and educating funding and governance leaders in order to obtain the resources the library needs to assist community members. 

Where can I learn more about how to be a better advocate? 
How do I get started? 
  • Advocacy is about relationships. Think about who you know, and who they know.  

  • Ask those individuals to meet you for coffee, talk to them when they visit the library, or when you see them in the community. Find out what they are working on. This often leads to opportunities to talk about how the library is working on those issues as well. 

  • If they support the library ask them “What do you love about your library?  Do you have a story about your library that you would be willing to share with others?” If they say yes collect the story and share it with others. 

  • If they don’t support the library continue to talk to them and build a positive relationship. You will need to listen more than you talk. Eventually you might find common ground. Even if you don’t they are less likely to stand in the way of library efforts if they know you personally. 

  • If you are working on funding for the library explore our resources about mill levies and winning elections.

How can I connect with local leaders? 
  • Invite a local government leader to your library or out for coffee. Attend a community meeting and set a goal of meeting at least one new community or government leader. 

  • Attend  Montana Association of County Officers (MACo) annual conference. 

How can I get involved at the state level? 
  • Follow the work of the Montana State Library. 

  • Follow the work of the Montana Legislature - learn about proposed bills or listen to legislative hearings.  

How can I get involved at the national level? 
  • Subscribe to wired-mt and follow-through on postings asking for action. 

Why is Board Development important? 

  • Trusteeship is a working relationship with the community, library staff and fellow trustees. 
  • Trustees are entrusted by the public to look after its interest and are accountable to the public. 
  • There is a direct correlation between the quality of library service a community offers and the knowledge, capability and enthusiasm of its Board members. 
  • The most effective trustees are those who take advantage of learning and training opportunities.

I’m a new trustee! What do I need to know?

Library Administration Manual - the new combined handbooks for directors and trustees with information for each and both on running a successful public library in Montana

Trustee Trouble - A series from the Wyoming State Library depicting some common missteps trustees may experience

Trustee Manual - an earlier manual which might also be useful to look at, with information specifically for trustees.

How do we hire a new library director?

Succession planning - resources for both planned and emergency succession events

Toolkit from COSLA (Chief Officers of State Library Agencies) containing sample job descriptions, recruitment ads, interview questions, reference checks, letters and more

Public library standards recommend trustees are certified. How do we do that?

Voluntary certification for trustees

Using the ASPeN directory to track continuing education credits

Public Library Standards

Other Helpful Resources

Library Law

Legal Resources for Public Libraries from previous Montana State Library trainings

Suggestions for Bylaws for Montana Library Boards (pdf)

Understanding Meeting Minutes Procedures (pdf) based on research conducted by MSL staff

MSL Extension Local Government Center resources for local government entities

 MCA - Libraries - explaining libraries and local government

United for Libraries - Montana has statewide access. Login and take advantage of webinars and recorded training videos

American Library Association (ALA)

Collection management – questions to consider 

  • Are community members able to get what they want/need from the collection? 

  • Are they able to find materials that reflect them and their interests? 

  • If they are concerned about items in the library is there a process for them to express their concerns? 

  • Is the library more than a museum for books? 

  • Are libraries maximizing their resources to meet community needs? 

Building a collection community members want to use 

  • Excellent collection development librarians know their community. They often have personal relationships with regulars; they pay attention to what is happening locally; they look for hidden gems; and they analyze what is and isn’t being used.  

  • These librarians use a variety of tools to learn about their community 

  • Listen. This is the first step. Talk to your regulars. Pay attention to what they are reading.  

  • Attend community meetings and listen to what people are saying. What are they excited about? What are they interested in? What are they worried about? 

  • Review your usage data. What is checking out the most? Consider subjects as well as formats. What doesn’t get much use? Why is that?  

  • Is your library in the Montana Shared Catalog? Take a look at these resources that can help you analyze your collection.  

  • Don’t forget online collections. Review online reports as well. Are you a member of MontanaLibrary2Go? Visit this link for information about how to see these reports. 

  • Skim local, regional, and state print or electronic media to find hidden gems that should be added to the collection.  

  • Consider local history and stories. The community’s stories are a powerful way to learn, understand, and create. Consider the Montana Memory Project either as a resource for people to access or as a service where your library actively contributes community history. 

Building an inclusive collection 

  • Libraries have long been places where all people are welcome. We can build on that ideal by ensuring that our services and collections reflect all of our community members and give people access to the full range of human ideas and experiences. This is powerfully illustrated by the simple building blocks created by a group of students who analyzed why their library was so welcoming to all. You can read about the power of five in this article from American Libraries

  • One of the key components? “Show me on the shelves and walls. Read those books yourself.” 

  • How do we build collections that reflect our community members?  

  • Use what you learned previously when you listened to community members. Ask your community members to help you choose items for the collection. Be sure you include community members from all walks of life. 

  • Review your census data. How many community members report having disabilities? How many minorities are in your community? 

  • Go beyond that to identify other groups in your community who might not look different from the majority but who live differently. Give them a chance to tell their stories and “share their joy” which is another fundamental thing welcoming libraries do for their community. 

  • The Massachusetts Library System has created a guide about how to build inclusive collections

Keeping the collection alive and responding to community members  

  • Most of us recognize that we don’t want the library to become a museum for old books. Yet, it’s amazing how attached we are to physical items that may have been sitting on the shelf for years. 

  • Keep your collection fresh by weeding it regularly. There are many resources and learning materials on weeding the collection. The CREW Method is the one most frequently used by public libraries. 


Library Standards due at end of month – enter information via ASPeN, state aid checks will be issued in October.
E-rate form 470 window opens – Form 470 opens a competitive process for the services desired – completed 470 form must be available online for 28 days prior to filing Form 471.


Commission meeting- 2nd Wednesday
Network Advisory Council Meeting
Statistics open – enter information via statistics reporting tool


Federation annual reports due at end of month – enter information via ASPeN
Fall Federation meetings start


Commission meeting – 2nd Wednesday
Montana Shared Catalog Fall membership meeting 
Fall Federation meetings - continue


Network Advisory Council  Meeting
Statistics due at end of month – enter information via Library Directory


Commission meeting – 2nd Wednesday


E-rate form 471 seeks funding for eligible telecom services competitively bid – – filing window for 471 is announced by SLD each year in the fall.   Libraries must have bids/contracts with service providers in writing before filing Form 471.
ELSA (Excellent Library Service Award) applications open in ASPeN


Commission meeting, 2nd Wednesday


ELSA (Excellent Library Service Award) applications are due in ASPeN
Network Advisory Council  Meeting
Spring Federation meetings - start.


Commission meeting at MLA conference
Montana Library2Go Membership meeting
Spring Federation Meetings - continue
E-rate form 486 states that delivery of telecom services has begun, form 472 (optional) files for reimbursement.  Forms 486 and 472 may be filed anytime after receipt of funding commitment decision letter.
Updated Public Library Annual  Statistics are available on MSL website


Network Advisory Council  Meeting
Montana Shared Catalog spring membership meeting 
Spring Federation meetings - continue
Federation dollar amounts determined by MSL.  Federation  Plans of Service due (before Commission meeting) – enter information via ASPeN
OCLC annual enrollment opens – libraries will be invoiced by OCLC in August or later.
Library  Standards open – enter information via ASPeN, state aid checks will be issued in October.


Commission meeting – 2nd Wednesday

USAC - The Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund (E-rate) is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and provides discounts to assist schools and libraries to obtain affordable Internet access and advanced technologies. Schools and libraries can apply annually for discounts of from 20-90% on Internet access, hardware to support wifi networks and fiber build outs.

Weekly Schools and Libraries News Brief

E-rate Trainings

Some states with high E-rate participation have produced their own training materials. These might be helpful in going step by step through forms:


Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)

All libraries that receive E-rate discounts for Internet Access, Internal Connections, Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections or Managed Internal Broadband Services must be compliant with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Computers and/or Internet purchased with LSTA funds must also be CIPA compliant.

To be CIPA compliant, a library must:

  • Filter visual images of child pornography, obscene material and images that are harmful to minors (for use on computers accessed by minors)
  • Have an Internet Safety Policy
  • Hold at least one meeting open to the public where the filter and internet safety policy are discussed.  A board meeting open to the public is an example of a public meeting.  Save meeting minutes and public notice announcing the meeting agenda.

USAC CIPA information

American Library Association and CIPA

Resources for library administrators

Library Administration Manual - an overview of Montana library information for new public library directors and trustees

MCA - Libraries - document explaining relationships between libraries and local government

Resources for Policy Development

Records Retention

Resources for Materials Challenges and Censorship


Guidelines for Designing a Library Survey

Guidelines for Running a Mill Levy Campaign


Accounting and Financial Report Resources

Budget training resources

Government Information

Montana Association of Counties Information about insurance and personnel services for counties and districts

Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority Information about insurance and personnel services for cities

Local Government Services Bureau A service of the Montana Department of Administration

MSU Extension Local Government Center  Resources for local government entities

Legislative Information


Archived but still may provide some useful information:

New Library Director's Handbook (Public Librarians)

Finance and Budgeting Resources

MSL staff is willing to help with law questions, but our help doesn't carry the same weight as an attorney's. If you need an official interpretation of the law, please contact your city and/or county attorney. However we are happy to help direct you to the correct law or any supporting materials that you may need.

Laws and Rules
The Montana Constitution, Montana Laws, and Administrative Rules of Montana as they pertain to public libraries.

Library Districts
Information on forming a library district, and laws surrounding library districts.

Attorney General Opinions
Review opinions of the attorney general, useful for understanding the law and its ramifications for an organization.

Supreme Court Cases
Review Montana Supreme Court case(s) dealing with public libraries.

Montana Code Annotated 
Search for Montana laws.

Frequently Asked Legal Questions
Links to documents that MSL created in order to address common legal questions that we receive.

Agreements and Attorney General Opinion 54, Number 7
This FAQ addresses agreements between local government officials and public library boards.  It also gives library directors and board members ideas for how to discuss Attorney General Opinion 54, Number 7 and its impact on the library.

The Montana State Library strongly encourages all libraries to have a strategic plan. Strategic plans are helpful tools for libraries because they can focus the library's programs and services and help with decisions on allocating resources based on community needs and how the library can meet those needs. There are many different ways to approach strategic planning. You'll find some resources below. Our consultants can offer facilitation help to public libraries going through a strategic planning process.   Please contact one of the consultants if you’d like more information about how the State Library can help you with your strategic plan.

There are many paths you can follow in developing your library's strategic plan. A good place to start is with some background on current issues and trends in libraries as well as data gathering.

Getting Started With Strategic Planning

From there you might want to look at some of these models for ideas and guidance.

Harwood Turning Outward Planning

Library Strategies Rapid Results Strategic Planning This is the process MSL consultants are currently using as part of the Framing the Future IMLS funded project.

For an idea of what a completed plan looks like see 

A Library Board's Guide to Strategic Planning - from United for Libraries (coming soon)

Public Library Service Responses

The Strategic Planning Process


Join a professional Association for continuing education and networking opportunities:

Montana Library Association (MLA)

American Library Association (ALA)

Mountain Plains Library Association (MPLA)  The Mountain Plains Library Association (MPLA) is a twelve state association of librarians, library paraprofessionals and friends of libraries in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Its purpose is to promote the development of librarians and libraries by providing significant educational and networking opportunities.

Pacific Northwest Library Association (PNLA)  Continuing education and networking opportunities for people who work in, with, and for libraries in Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, and Washington.

Find a library job:

ALA Library Job Search

MPLA Jobline

PNLA Jobs List

Apply for a professional development grant:

MLA Professional Development Grant

MPLA Professional Development Grant

Pat Carterette Professional Development Grant  from the ALA LearningRT

Attend a Leadership Institute:

PNLA Leadership Institute

MPLA Leadership Institute

Brush up on your professional competencies

Expand your knowledge using MSL Professional Development Resources

Resources for technology planning and management

Barcode Registry
A voluntary program where you enter your barcode range in the Montana Library Directory.

PC Purchasing Specifications
Some guidelines to follow when shopping for new PCs for your library.

Consider recycling your old computer. The State of Montana's Department of Environmental Quality has a new web page with information about disposing of electronics.
Best Buy stores offer trade in and recycling of electronics.
Staples offers electronic recycling.

A nonprofit organization that helps public libraries obtain donated and discounted technology products. TechSoup can support your library!

Digital Literacy
Comprehensive list of resources compiled by Arizona State Library to help teach digital literacy skills.