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Library foundation’s new executive director ready for challenges ahead

by TAYLOR INMAN
Bigfork Eagle | May 11, 2022 12:00 AM

New ImagineIF Library Foundation Executive Director Adam Tunnell is eager to help facilitate the needs of the library system and its patrons.

Most recently the general manager of the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Kalispell, Tunnell said even though he loved his position there, he felt like his passions were needed elsewhere.

After serving on the foundation’s board for the last three years, he’s familiar with the recent conflicts that have occurred surrounding the library and understands the challenges ahead.

“ As more and more things started happening, as the need was shown, I thought about long and hard. I discussed it with my family … I looked at the position with the library foundation as my talents and passion were needed there and I’m excited to continue to support the ImagineIF library system,” Tunnell said.

The foundation’s former Executive Director Charlotte Housel resigned citing burnout and a strained relationship with the library board as reasons for stepping down. There have been ongoing tensions between the board, library staff and the foundation. The foundation is halfway to its goal of raising $1.6 million through a capital campaign to purchase a building for the Bigfork library, but uncertainty remains about whether the building will be accepted by Flathead County.

Tunnell said the effort to move Bigfork into a new library building was put on hold for many different reasons, but he is committed to seeing it through.

“Bigfork is so small they’re turning folks away from storytime now because we’re over fire code with attendance. The new building is going to give the opportunity to expand programming to the public for many different things. The drive of the Bigfork community isn’t going to allow it to fail,” Tunnell said.

Tunnell said the county has requested information regarding the costs of the new building and he’s working with the library trustees to complete that process.

“A healthy community requires a good library and all of the branches are great. The Bigfork branch right now is an amazing place, but we’re just looking to be where it could be in the future,” Tunnell said.

Regarding recent book challenges at the ImagineIF libraries, Tunnell notes the main role of the foundation is to enhance the library experience by supplementing funds when needed and to support programming. While the foundation doesn’t fund book purchases, he said, the foundation is dedicated to the cause of the “right to read.”

“Naturally we are going to be strong advocates for the library, advocates for the freedom of information, we are strong advocates against censorship. We will definitely continue to advocate for the freedom of the community to get the materials that they wish to get,” Tunnell said.

He said the foundation funds about 3% of the ImagineIF library system budget each year, mostly going towards programming. The foundation does not fund operation costs or staff salaries.

TUNNELL SAID he’s been a “lifelong fan of libraries.”

Originally from Sandusky, Ohio, he met his wife in college, where they both studied music. They moved to Darby, Montana in 2006 and to the Flathead Valley in 2010. Their four children attend school in Bigfork, where his wife Randi is the band director for the middle and high school. He said he still uses his trumpet performance degree occasionally, playing in local bands and filling in with the Glacier Symphony Orchestra.

Tunnel has been drawn to working with nonprofits. Since moving to Montana, he has worked as the operations director of the Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival and manager and operations director of Loon Lake Camp.

He said he was a stay-at-home-dad when he started taking his sons to storytime at the library, which helped them meet new people and make friends. He joined the foundation board in 2019, recently stepping away from his role as treasurer to pursue the executive director position.

Tunnell said his work with local nonprofits over the past decade has driven him to continue to find new ways to serve the community.

“But working with Habitat for Humanity, it really opened my eyes to the needs of the community. Being on the foundation board and just the passion this valley has for libraries and for that whole genre has just been really enlightening, and it’s really rewarding to feel like you are doing something,” Tunnell said.