MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA (AP)
The governor's office is opposing any plans the State Library has to shut down certain walk-in services as it transitions to a digital library. In a memo to State Librarian Darlene Staffeldt, Gov. Brian Schweitzer's chief of staff said "we strongly oppose" the plan to discontinue walk-in access to reading areas and other services. "As a taxpayer financed institution, we expect you to continue to offer these services to the public," Nelson wrote in the memo, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press. The state library is in the midst of making all its documents available in a digital format. It has said documents not yet digitized will be converted once someone asks for the document through an online system. At the same time, the library is planning to eventually close its traditional walk-in access. Such services as access to print newspapers, magazines, reading areas and the Internet would be lost. The library says such services are used by very few people, are not part of its mission and are better done at the local library. Detractors have said the library is moving too fast and isn't ready to make the digital transition. They say the library needs to be open as a public space, not just through the new computer kiosks it plans to put up. State Librarian Darlene Staffeldt did not return calls seeking comment Friday. The governor's office did endorse the largest pieces of the library's plan. Nelson said they like the notion of placing significant documents in the archives of the Montana Historical Society. The library, as part of its transition plan, says it is inappropriate to have such items on the shelf that can be checked out and potentially lost. The library is seeking public comment on the plan before its board comes back in February and reviews the progress. "We generally endorse the public process outlined in your plan and request that you consult with (staff) concerning specific suggestions for improvement," Nelson wrote. "We will continue to review drafts of the (plan) and may comment further during the process."