Federation Notebook

Overview and History of Federations

This is a broad overview of federations.  There are 6 unique federations in the state. They have the same basic structure, but each has its own culture and operational structure.

Libraries in Montana are organized into federations - groups of libraries working together to provide a broader range of resources and services than individual libraries alone can offer.  These federations were developed by the Montana State Library Commission to give all Montanans access to a library and, through it, the library resources within their area, the state and the nation. Originally, only public libraries participated in federations.  In 1999, the Legislature expanded the law to allow all types of libraries to participate in the federations, including school, academic, and special libraries.

The goals of each federation are specified in an annual Plan of Service (POS) that is created by federation libraries and submitted to the MSL commission for approval prior to implementation.  Programs differ among federations, but they can include interlibrary loan, technology, cooperative purchases and continuing education (CE) and training.  At the end of each year, the Federation Coordinator submits an annual report for the Federation based on the individual reports submitted by libraries in the federation.

Federations hold two membership meetings a year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Libraries are expected to attend these meetings since they provide an opportunity for communication, continuing education and planning.  Each member library sends a representative, usually the director, and a trustee.  This group of librarians and trustees is called the federation advisory board.  Trustees have the voting power.  The federation advisory boards assist in planning services available through the federation.  Each local library board retains control over local aspects of its library’s services as set forth in MCA 22-1-402, et. seq.

Each federation has a coordinator who is chosen from one of the member libraries in the federation.  Federations have a variety of ways of assigning and rotating the coordinator position.  The Federation coordinator is responsible for facilitating all federation activities, including organizing the federation meetings, creating the plan of service, creating the annual report, and organizing continuing education activities.  Each federation also has an MSL consultant assigned to assist the federation and work with coordinators to organize these various activities.