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.



Fiscal year begins with libraries following the Plan of Service (POS) that was approved by the MSL Commission. Libraries receiving Federation funds in the last fiscal year can begin their annual federation report to the Federation Coordinator stating how the funds were spent.


Federation coordinator and MSL consultant create an agenda for Fall Federation meeting, if needed.  Individual libraries continue to complete their annual report.


Federation coordinator and MSL consultant plan Fall meeting, organize continuing education (if needed) and send agendas to member libraries Individual library annual reports for the Federation annual report must be completed and sent to Federation Coordinator. Federation Coordinator submits Federation Annual Report to MSL by September 30.  Federation meetings occur.


Fall Federation meetings continue. Federation members meet to discuss federation business and perhaps begin planning for the next fiscal year. Federation Coordinators meet the day before commission meeting. Federation Coordinators present Federation Annual Report to MSL Commission for approval.


Federation checks are mailed out in early November.  Amounts are based upon the approved plans of service. 


Libraries should be expending their funds and reporting their expenditures. 


Federation Coordinator and assigned MSL consultant begin planning for Spring Federation meeting. 


Libraries receive agenda and sometimes a draft Plan of Service (POS) in preparation for Spring meeting. Federation Coordinator and assigned MSL consultants continue to make arrangements for spring Federation meeting, plans, and CE activities.  Federation meetings occur.


Spring Federation meetings continue. The federation members will create, vote on and finalize their POS for next fiscal year. Election of officers occurs. Libraries monitor funds to ensure all Federation funds will be spent by June 30.  Libraries should check to see if expenditures of Federation money are following the POS.  Variances should be reported to Federation Coordinator. 


Federation Coordinator presents POS to MSL Commission for approval. End of fiscal year occurs on June 30.

Laws and Rules

Montana Code Annotated (MCA)

Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM)

Coordinator Information and Job Description


Federation Coordinator


Encourages Federation libraries to work collaboratively to improve library services locally and regionally.


  • Facilitate and lead Federation meetings
  • Encourage and develop leadership amongst Federation libraries by asking members to help with continuing education for the Federation, arranging meeting logistics, and other Federation duties
  • Create positive energy and opportunities for networking during the meetings
  • Help federation members identify ways to work collaboratively to improve library services
  • Work with Federation members, MSL staff, and MSL Commission
  • Represent Federation libraries at Montana State Library Commission meetings
  • Answer questions about the Federation
  • Help federation members create a Plan of Service that details goals for improving library service and a final report that discusses how the federation did in achieving those goals
  • Administer federation – includes filing paperwork with the state, communicating with Montana State Library staff and commission, etc.

Accountability and Performance

  • Encourages collaboration amongst Federation libraries
  • Creates energy and a sense of camaraderie amongst members
  • Coaches, mentors, and leads Federation libraries 
  • Works with state library staff and commission to administer federation

Knowledge, Skills, and Experience

  • One year as a director of a library within the federation
  • Able to communicate orally and in writing
  • Able to create positive energy
  • Desire to mentor, coach, and lead
  • Able to understand the needs, values, and opinions of others
  • Desire to help others
  • Willingness to travel long distances for meetings

Responsible To

Federation members, the Federation Advisory Board, and MSL

Administrative Checklist


  • Reminder sent out to public library directors to complete their individual library annual report for the library federation 


  • Individual libraries are encouraged to complete their annual reports.  Coordinators and MSL staff may send out reminders and assist libraries as needed.


  • Annual report for the entire federation is due at the end of the month


  • Coordinators meet in Helena and make presentations to commission
  • Commission votes on whether or not to accept the annual reports
  • MSL staff create a spreadsheet that lists the exact dollar amounts each federation library should receive.  This is based on the plan of service approved by the Commission.


  • MSL staff process checks and send them to the federation libraries


  • Library Development Director ask coordinators to send an estimate of travel expenses 
  • Library Development Director and Central Services Manager figure out how much money is available to federations. NOTE: legislative session will impact this. During odd numbered years MSL staff may only be able to give an estimate until after the legislative session ends. 
  • MSL staff enter the dollar amounts for the federations in the online directory, so coordinators can complete their plan of service

March – May

  • Federations meet to vote on the plan of service
  • Coordinators finalize the plans of service in the online system


  • Coordinators attend the Commission meeting online to present the plans of service
  • Commission votes on plans of service

Bylaws for Montana Library Federations


Based on feedback from federation members and coordinators, the Montana State Library created the following document to help federations update their bylaws. MSL staff reviewed the Montana Code Annotated, Administrative Rules and Robert’s Rules of Order 11th edition to identify what should be included in federation bylaws. We tried to identify some of the questions that should be answered in each section.

Bylaws protect the rights of individuals within an organization; provide guidance on how to select officers, the duties of members and officers, and how to resolve problems. Well written bylaws help federation members by giving them a structure for votes, meetings, and other business procedures. This structure allows federations to spend more time on discussions and less time on wondering how to take care of federation business. Please contact MSL staff if you would like assistance with updating federation bylaws.

Per MCA 22-1-402 and ARM 10.102.5102 bylaws must include the following:

Federation advisory board composition and appointment as well as Federation Board of Trustees – bylaws must describe the makeup of the federation advisory board along with information about how the federation advisory board members will be elected. it should also reference who serves on the Federation Board of Trustees.  According to MCA 22-1-404 there must be a federation board of trustees of whom the majority of members must be trustees.

Procedures for approving the Plan of Service – how/when will the federation approve their plan of service?

Proxy voting – Will the federation allow proxies? If so, under what circumstances? Who can carry a proxy for a participating member? What is the procedure for using a proxy?

Quorum requirements – How many participating libraries are required in order to have a quorum?

Procedures for conducting federation business – see below for suggestions on what to include in this section.

Withdrawal from the federation – what procedure does a participating library need to follow in order to leave the federation?

Recommendations from Roberts’ Rules of Order 11th edition:

Article I. Name. – What is the official name of the federation?

Article II. Object –What is the purpose of the federation?

Article III. Members – Who can join the federation? How do they join? What are the requirements of being a member? Who is the voting representative? How many members does the federation need at a meeting in order to have a quorum? What procedure must be followed if a member wants to leave the federation? What procedure should a member follow if s/he has a grievance with the federation?

This is the section where federation members can address whether or not attendance at meetings is required in order to receive funding from the federation. Federation members may also want to address how branches will be treated.

Article IV. Officers – Who are the officers of the federation advisory board? How are they nominated? How are they elected? When are they elected? What are their duties? How long are the terms of office? What happens if there is a vacancy? Can the chair vote? The bylaws should indicate whether or not the chair can vote every time or only when his/her vote is needed to break a tie. How is the coordinator selected and/or elected? If applicable what is the term of office for the federation coordinator? What are his/her duties? Are there term limits?

Remember: Per MCA 22-1-404 the coordinator cannot vote. It’s a good idea to include this information in the bylaws.

Article V. Meetings – When are federation meetings? Where are they? And how often does the federation meet? What is the procedure for calling a special meeting? This is the section where the federation can identify when and how it will approve its plan of service. It may also be appropriate to discuss proxies and electronic meetings in this section. 

Article VI. Executive Board – Does the federation have an executive board? If so who is a member of the executive board? What are their duties? How are they elected? What are their terms?

Article VII. Committees – Does the federation have standing committees? If so what are they? What are the duties of the committee? How are members selected for the committee? If the federation does not have a standing committee is the coordinator and/or the executive board given the authority to form a committee? If so what are the procedures for doing so?

Article VIII. Parliamentary Authority – Does the federation use a parliamentary authority like Robert’s Rules of Order? If so this is the section to state what edition is followed. It may be wiser to simply state that the federation uses standard parliamentary authority to complete its business if it does not normally follow Robert’s Rules of Order.

Article IX. Amendment of the Bylaws – How are bylaws amended? At what frequency should bylaws be reviewed? What procedures does a bylaws committee need to follow to suggest bylaw amendments? What kind of notice will be given to members? How many votes will it take to pass bylaw changes? Note: many organizations require a 2/3 majority in order to pass bylaw changes. What procedures does the federation follow for an emergency suspension of the bylaws? Will the federation allow this?

Sample Press Release for Announcing a Federation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              Contact:         Name of coordinator

Insert date                                                                                          Phone number of coordinator

                                                                                                            Email address of coordinator

Name of Federation to Meet in Location of Meeting

City of meeting, MT -- The name of federation of Libraries will hold their -if regular seasonal meeting – indicate season meeting at the library and/or location of meeting in city where meeting is being held from time of meeting on day and date of meeting.  The location of meeting is located at address of location

In order to improve library services in Montana, the Montana State Library divided the state up into six regions; libraries within those regions formed federations. The name of federation Federation includes libraries in the following counties: list counties.

The Federations receive funding through the Coal Severance Tax monies that the state receives. This money is evenly divided amongst Federations using a formula based upon population. 

The Federation will meet to discuss the following business: list agenda items.

For more information about Montana’s library federations, visit the Montana State Library website at http://libraries.msl.mt.gov/library_development/consulting/federations or contact coordinator’s name at coordinator’s phone number or coordinator’s email.


How to Host a Federation Meeting

  • Verify the time and date of the meeting with the Federation Coordinator 
  • Arrange for lunch and snacks (check with Federation Coordinator regarding reimbursement) 
  • Check with Federation Coordinator regarding any equipment or supplies needed for meeting. 
  • Arrange for any technology needs for presentations or members 
  • Be sure to announce this as a public meeting and post the agenda where you normally post the announcement for your board meetings. 


Annual Report and Plan of Service are located in the State Library's online reporting system.  

Voting Proxy (pdf)

Reimbursement - if you are hosting lunch for federation members, please contact the coordinator to arrange reimbursement or payment of expenses.