Great Falls Public Library’s Partisan Political Agenda?

Opinion by Jeni Dodd

I grew up experiencing a local library as an enchanting place to discover literature, gather
information and explore ideas. A place for informing and educating but also a place
where parents could be assured that their children were safe in that exploration —
physically, mentally and spiritually.

I’ve since learned that although a local library may appear on the outside to be the same
one you spent time in as a child, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Now that we have instant access to books, magazines and other material online from the
comfort of our homes, libraries appear to be struggling for relevance. So libraries are
branching out and sadly, becoming biased, agenda-pushing institutions.

The Great Falls Public Library is no exception to this push toward woke agendas. The
latest examples were on display at the January 23 library board meeting. One agenda
item proposed by Library Director Suzie McIntyre, was a change to the library’s Code of
Ethics, adding the following language from the American Library Association.

We affirm the inherent dignity and rights of every person. We work to recognize and
dismantle systemic and individual biases; to confront inequity and oppression; to
enhance diversity and inclusion; and to advance racial and social justice in our libraries,
communities, profession, and associations through awareness, advocacy, education,
collaboration, services, and allocation of resources and spaces.


I don’t have a problem with that first sentence. But the rest sounds like a political agenda
commercial for the progressive left. The library board passed the addition by a 4-1 vote.
The Great Falls Public Library is a governmental division of the City of Great Falls and
sponsored by our tax dollars. As such it is subject to the provisions of Montana Code
Annotated Title 49, Chapter 3, Part 2 Duties of Government Agencies, Governmental
Services.

MCA 49-3-205 states:
49-3-205. Governmental services. (1) All services of every state or local governmental
agency must be performed without discrimination based upon race, color, religion, creed,
political ideas, sex, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, or national origin.
(2) A state or local facility may not be used in the furtherance of any discriminatory
practice, nor may a state or local governmental agency become a party to an
agreement, arrangement, or plan that has the effect of sanctioning discriminatory
practices
(Emphasis added).

Dismantling systemic biases certainly sounds like a political agenda to me. Who decides
what defines systemic bias? The library director? The City of Great Falls? The American
Library Association? The library is also positioning itself to be the arbiter in defining
what is meant by inequity, oppression and diversity.

Will it be considered “oppressive” to not use someone’s pronouns of choice? Will
compelled speech by a government entity like the library, acting dictatorially, become
standard procedure?

The purposed changes to the Library Code of Ethics shows the library wishes to sanction
and promote political ideologies, an apparent violation of the above MCA statute.

Agendas are also introduced through library programing. One of the commenters at the
library board meeting mentioned a recent speaker who presented a Palestinian
perspective behind the long standing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. He asked the board
when the library would invite a speaker to present the opposite viewpoint on the conflict.
Library Director McIntyre answered that the speaker was originally from Great Falls.
Who knows why she thinks that matters? She went on the claim that she “couldn’t find
anyone” to speak on the opposite viewpoint, which I find preposterous. How hard did she
look, really?

Seems to me the library must either provide a public forum for any and all political views
or must refrain entirely from providing a forum for any political views.

But these examples aren’t the library’s first foray into woke world. We’ve also seen it
with Drag Queen Story Hour, which was posted online on the library’s YouTube kid’s
channel.



Despite Library Director McIntyre’s claim at a city commission meeting and other
meetings that the library “did not have Drag Queen Story Hour,” the fact is that one of
the “queens” in the video thanked the Great Falls Public Library for having them read for
the library. It seems to me that McIntyre was deceptive through her semantics in
answering the city commission and public’s questions about it.

Men dressed as women reading to children? Does anyone really believe that mockery of
women is an educational or informational activity?

Of course, the library gave no consideration to drags’ anti-female origins — from ancient
Greece where women weren’t allow on stage, so men dressed as women for female roles;
to white men dressed as females in blackface mocking black women; how that all became
the precursor to Drag; on to the present Drag Queen Story Hour and how it depicts
derisive characterizations of women, or worse, a goal to sexualize children.

More telling is that I haven’t seen the Great Falls Public Library celebrate Women’s
History Month during McIntyre’s tenure as library director. Why not? Perhaps honoring
historic females is out of the question if you believe there are as many genders as ice
cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins.

Despite McIntyre’s claim in an email to me that, “The Library is committed to being open
and transparent,”
I’m constantly finding transparency, accountability and truth lacking
from the library director and board.

Even though McIntyre revealed at the January 2 City Commission Work Session that the
library had to borrow $300,000 from the Great Falls Public Library Foundation due to a
budget shortfall, her explanation defies logic.

“We didn’t understand the cash flow issue as well as we should have. We also didn’t quite
understand, when we first did our budget, we didn’t know that electrical cost would triple
and that our union members would mostly get 8% raises,”
McIntyre claimed.

It seems she is implying that the electric rate increase was sprung on her and she was
taken by surprise. That is definitely not the case.

Though Library Director McIntyre might have been in the dark about a potential city
electric rates increase back in December 2023 when she presented her library levy and
budget proposal, she certainly knew by early February 2023.

McIntyre was present at the February 2023 commission meeting where the electrical rate
increases were discussed and voted on. In fact, it was the same meeting where she
presented her case for the library levy resolution. So she had ample time before the levy
passed in June to make necessary budget adjustments, like freezing hiring and budgeting
to cover the increased electric rates. I would argue a competent city department head,
such as library director, should be expected to cover existing expenses before creating
new ones. But she went ahead with her hiring spree.

Regarding union wage increases, according to city documents, McIntyre was also on the
negotiating team for the union agreement covering library workers in July 2023. Thus she
was aware of pay increases then, but still chose to hire more personnel for the library,
including a full-time community engagement director and a part time communication
specialist. Seems to me that if you know at the beginning of July you’d need funds to
cover union wage increases, you would hold off on adding new staff.

When I submitted a formal request to the city for information on the cost of salaries and
benefits for library positions hired since the library levy passed, I receive an email from
the city stating the following:

“HR staff has estimated an hour and a half to compile the requested information. Per the
Commission’s adopted policy there is no charge for the first 30 minutes. Therefore, the
estimate of fees is about $45.”


An hour and a half? The information I requested is something that should be easy and
readily accessible for a library director to find as it should be in her budget. Why would
HR staff, and not the library director, be tasked with fulfilling the request? Does McIntyre
even know what’s in the library’s budget? So much for open and transparent.

A mere 619 vote difference allowed the library levy to pass, a levy which, by the way,
was not for keeping the library doors open, despite reporting from at least one local
mainstream media outlet. Unfortunately, it’s the message most folks heard and some folks
were duped into believing it and, despite citizens like me calling for a correction, the
media took its own sweet time to do so. Not to mention, we all know that a correction
never gets the attention of the original report. The levy proponents certainly gained an
unfair advantage in the election, thanks to the media’s “mistake.” Seems a little bit like
election interference, doesn’t it?

So where was the library director during this? Did she try to correct it? No, McIntyre
stated to me in an email that she “wasn’t aware that he provided inaccurate information
until he contacted me about providing clarification.”


Well, maybe I’m just cynical, but like most of what McIntyre says, I find that impossible
to believe, especially since I’ve had Great Falls folks tell me that they contacted the
library and the library director shortly after the broadcast to complain about the
misinformation.

Curious to research the funding behind YES for libraries, the political committee that
promoted the library levy, I found a total of less than 100 individual donations to the
committee. Yet YES for Libraries raised, if my math is right from adding the numbers on
the Montana Commission of Political Practices database, approximately $151,000.
Here’s the information from the Montana Commission of Political Practices (MT COPP)
Campaign Electronic Reporting System (CERS):

Levy proponents tried to make it look like a grassroots effort with their marketing, but
again, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Minus the Library Foundation’s donation of
$23,195 during the first reporting period, the bulk of the remainder of YES for
Libraries funding of $128,692 came from just three people, as seen on a CERS pdf
screen shot.


The local mainstream media didn’t report that, did they? No, the appearance of a
grassroots effort was important to getting the levy passed. Instead, they aided and abetted
the library levy effort through their lack of investigative journalism and no sense of duty
to present both sides of this levy debate. No fair and balanced reporting to be found on
the library levy here in Great Falls, except for an independent voice or two.

Yes, looks are deceiving. The finest leather-bound, gold-leaf volume can contain lies and
deception, while a tattered and torn paperback can contain facts and truth. We must look
beyond the cover in every instance for facts and truth during these troubling times.

Jeni Dodd
Jeni Dodd
Jeni Dodd is a creative, multi-faceted, multi-talented, knowledge junkie. She currently utilizes her skills in a variety of business and artistic endeavors. Liberty, integrity, truth and critical thinking are among her most important precepts.

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