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Big Sky Community Library enters 20th year

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The Feb. 11, 2000, edition of The Big Sky Weekly, celebrating Big Sky’s new library space—months before it was open to the public. PHOTO BY MICHAEL SOMERBY

By Michael Somerby EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Nearly 20 years ago, “The Big Sky Weekly,” then the preeminent local news publication in Big Sky, featured a story about a new library enhancing education for Ophir School’s students.

“Ophir School Embraces New Library,” read the Feb. 11, 2000, headline, and the article chronicled the nine years of progress witnessed by the community as a result of the efforts of Head Librarian Kathy House.

When House arrived at the school in the early 1990s, according to the piece, the library was nothing more than a segmented portion of a classroom, where a curtain delineated where classroom ended and the library began.

Crammed like sardines, the books, students and House managed to eke out a functioning relationship with the space; while the conditions were less than ideal, it was a start, but to anyone with prior knowledge of what a school’s library ought to look like, they underscored a real need for improvement.

In September 1999, House and the students’ dreams were realized when a new library graced the growing school’s facilities and presented new avenues for scholastic and personal relationships with literature for Big Sky’s youth.

With the new space, however, came new responsibilities and challenges.

“Before that move, we had this janky little space, and when we moved into the bigger space I looked around and thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m ever going to fill this with books and resources with our small budget’,” House said in a recent interview with EBS. She’s still head librarian at the community library she started all those years ago.  

She even imagined bringing Internet to the library, then a relatively high-tech ask.

Turning to the Resort Tax for a $25,000 appropriation, House, with the help of the newly minted Friends of the Library Committee, began to stock the shelves and buy computers for the library.

Then, as “The Big Sky Weekly” piece detailed, House and the FOL began to set sights on not only improving the library’s student offerings, but to also pave the way for a community library where adults could also access the wealth of academic information, poetry and prose found on the spacious shelves under a sheet of natural lighting.

Yet, a new setback emerged: There were concerns that opening the doors to the public would present a safety issue for the school and students, so an agreement was made with the school that allowed for public access on certain hours of specific days.

Today, the library’s facilities and amenities would baffle Ophir School students and faculty of the early 90s. PHOTO BY MICHAEL SOMERBY

Once that accord was reached and set into place, on Oct. 24, 2000, the library hosted a grand opening that commemorated the entire Big Sky community’s ability to enter the library doors.

Voila: The Big Sky Community Library was manifest.

Oct. 24, 2019, marked the official start to the 20th year the greater Big Sky community was granted access to the library, a landmark moment considering the history and humble beginnings of the town’s library space.

Moreover, the milestone solidified the notion that Big Sky is a community with real and growing bones, and with dedicated members of the community driven to make it so.

“I think that the library is a great example of the community showing its sustainability and people’s desire to live here permanently, year round,” said Amy Hunter, assistant community librarian. “There’s something so calming and peaceful about walking into the library … It gives me hope and perspective about the world, and I think it brings that to the community too.”

The Big Sky Community Library is a resource that should not be taken for granted—this fall, be sure to celebrate the hard-wrought stacks of literature, sure to inform and transport to worlds known and new.

“We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished,” House said.

Show your support for The Big Sky Community Library at the Scholastic Book Fair and Friends of the Library used book sale, a major annual fundraiser, held in the Ophir Elementary Gym on Nov. 7, 8:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m., and on Nov. 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

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