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The Billings Public Library – our community’s living room

February 21st, 2021

By Suzanne McKiernan, Billings Public Library Foundation Board of Directors 2014-2017; 2017-2019, Board President 2016-2018

A remark that Will Bruder, the architect of the Billings Public Library, shared that still stays with me was, “Libraries are the community’s living room”.  The Billings Public Library Foundation has taken that thought to the next level.

Shortly after the opening of the library in February 2014, special guests ranged from noted author Neil Gaiman to award-winning children’s author Michael Berenstain.  Each of those events brought our community (and their children) into the new library.  It was an opportunity all to understand that this library is their library.

Moving to the next level of community and library is the Royal Johnson Forum.  The first guest of the forum was retired Senator Alan Simpson and panelist Anthony Johnstone (U of MT Constitutional Law Professor) and Follow the Monday executive director, Ed Bender who discussed dark money in politics.  Due to overwhelming success, the next year the Foundation brought in broadcast journalist, Judy Woodruff.  Judy was able to share her experiences as manager editor of PBS NewsHour with Billings at three events throughout the day.  The last event was an open forum for all interested held at MSU Billings. Last year, the Foundation hosted the Forum around Russia and had two noted experts, Matthew Rojansky, the Director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in Washington DC and author and retired journalist, Nicholas Daniloff.  These insightful men provided a timely understanding into what life and politics are like in Russia.

The Billings Public Library Foundation continues to share the wonder of the library with other amazing outreach efforts.  The Bicycle Library, used in the summer to reach children and their families in our city parks and 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, encouraging very young readers to learn the magic of words on a page.  With the importance of connection, the Foundation’s latest project provided library patrons the opportunity to check out mobile hotspots for free internet connection as well as computers to enable the library to offer mobile computer labs.

The “community’s living room” can now be thought of as the Billings Public Library but with a reach that goes beyond the boundaries of the building.