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Great Falls Public Library invites public comment on possible re-naming

Great Falls Public Library
Posted at 5:49 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 20:08:10-04

GREAT FALLS — As work continues to decide whether or not to rename the Great Falls Public Library, the library is asking for your feedback.

A survey is available online to get an understanding of whether people think the library should be named after former head librarian Alma Smith Jacobs.

The survey also asks questions about how welcome you feel when you visit the library. Focus groups are also being held.

Ken Robison, a Cascade County historian, suggested last year that the library be renamed in honor of Jacobs.

Jacobs played a major role in opening the library, after being appointed as head librarian in 1954. She served for almost 20 years before being named Montana State Librarian in 1973, both historic firsts for a Black woman.

There is a mural of Jacobs on the outside of the building a memorial in front of the building.

Great Falls Public Library - mural of Alma Jacobs

"We're really here to serve the community, so if you have feedback feel free to call us, come in to fill out the survey. I'm happy to talk to people. It's very important to me that we are welcoming and serving to everyone,” explained Susie McIntyre, the director of the library.

The library website has more information about Jacobs' impact and the history of the library, including this overview:

In 1954, after working as a catalog librarian for 8 years, Alma Jacobs was named head librarian of Great Falls Public Library. At a time when the city was strictly segregated, Jacobs, an African American, became one of the city’s most respected women through her untiring and determined work for the library. A longtime friend of Jacobs, Dorothy Bohn stated, “it was due to her that people mellowed here in Great Falls”. Jacob’s chief concern was library service to the community and downplayed the subject of her race stating, “I resent being thought of as a Negro librarian. I would rather concentrate on being a good librarian”. Alma Jacobs would head the Great Falls Public Library until 1973 when she resigned to head the Montana State Library in Helena.

Click here if you would like to participate in the survey, which is available until October 1.

McItyre said a decision about renaming the library could sometime in January 2022.