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Plains Library earns state recognition

by TRACY SCOTT Valley Press
| July 3, 2024 12:00 AM

For their hard work and dedication, Plains Public Library, staff, and volunteers received the Excellent Library Service Award (ELSA) by the Montana State Library Commission.  

The award recognizes a library’s commitment to excellence programs, services, partnerships and aligning programing with community needs. It is given to 25 libraries in the state each year that meet many requirements. Each library must apply to the Montana State Library Commission for consideration for the award. 

Plains Library Director Nikki Ericksen said she was notified at the end of May about being chosen for the award. The director since 2021, Ericksen was instrumental in starting an after-school program called Kids Club.  

“It’s once a week for the younger (kids), kindergarten through three on Monday,” Ericksen said. “Once a week for the older (kids), fourth through six graders on Tuesday. The school doesn’t have an actual after-school program right now.”  

The program is available during the school year on Monday and Tuesday from 4-5:30 p.m. Last week around 20 children attended the program.  

Ericksen continued, “We try to have literacy based, educational activities and science. We keep them busy and excited to be in the library.”  

A chess and pinochle group has been started.  

“One of the programs that I am passionate about and would like to start is an after-school tutoring program where volunteers would come and tutor kids that need the tutoring,” she said. “They could come here and meet up with a grownup. Another program I would like to start is a genealogy group. People love that kind of thing.” 

Ericksen continued, “I know the population of our town has increased. We are very busy all the time. We are not a quiet library. It’s too small of a building. Our staff is amazing. The library is not just a collection of books. We’re a collection of services and a gateway for sources around the state and country.” 

When asked about future library plans, Ericksen had a long wish list.  

“We need a place to gather,” she said. “The big dream I have is to expand the building quite a bit. A place for people to meet, privacy rooms that allow people to study and do job interviews.”

The Plains Public Library is funded by local taxes and has started applying for available grants. This year the library received a $5,000 grant to help replace its aging children book section. This was the first year the library has applied for grants because of all the increased operating costs.  

Ericksen said the library was very thankful for the support from local businesses that donate items for their silent auction. The library also had a 5k and fun run which attracted 58 runners this year.  

“We had set a goal for ourselves and blew it out of the water. It was a very humbling thing. We have asked for things, and they have been showing up more than we ever dreamed,” she said.