The Big Sky Community Library’s new hours are Mondays and Tuesdays from 1-6 p.m.. Certain restrictions are in place including only six patrons allowed in at a time and visit duration limited to 30 minutes. All books and materials are to be returned using the outside bin. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

An unexpected $15,000 gift

3 Rivers uses FCC’s relaxed restrictions to help community libraries and schools

Any funding for a community library is beneficial, but a $15,000 grant from 3 Rivers Communications for the Big Sky Community Library – during all the uncertainty a pandemic provides – was an unexpected gift. Don Serido, Marketing Manager for 3 Rivers Communications explained in a library press release that a few things made the grant possible. The Federal Communications Commission relaxed restrictions on gift-giving from telecommunications providers to E-Rate recipients.

“Without getting too deep in the weeds, E-rate is a federal subsidy program that helps public libraries and schools pay for telephone and Internet service,” he said. “As a phone/ Internet provider, 3 Rivers is barred from giving gifts to entities that may receive service from us, but that rule is currently waived.” As a result, 3 Rivers is taking the opportunity to help libraries and schools in its service areas – thirteen libraries received the $15,000 boon.

Those funds were made available via the unclaimed capital credit fund.

“As a cooperative, we usually pay out capital credits to our members each year based on services they purchased over the years. As members move or pass away without leaving contact information, these capital credits accrue,” he said. Per state law, those funds can be used for “educational purposes.”

Head librarian Kathy House explained that she was contacted by Susan Wilson, the Community Outreach Coordinator for 3 Rivers who asked her more details about the library.

“I told her that we were located in the school and that we share the space with the middle school and high school. I let her know that we are a totally separate entity, paying rent and maintenance, but open to the public for 20 hours a week,” House said.

Then Wilson told her 3 Rivers had a $15,000 grant for the library.

“I kept saying, ‘15, 15?’ and she said yes. I was totally shocked. It was out of the blue and couldn’t have come at a better time with everything happening with Resort Tax funding,” she said.

The pandemic pushed many organizations to uncharted territory. It also revealed the necessity of creative thinking by analytical minds in finding other funding sources. The financial structuring of some area nonprofits lean heavily on Resort Tax, which is not solid footing when tax revenue shrinks. Big Sky Resort Area District (Resort Tax) has been encouraging Resort Tax applicants to put forth extra effort in “diversifying their revenue streams and improving their situations,” Resort Tax Executive Director Daniel Bierschwale said. The hope is that when the next big upset occurs, the board will not be forced to make calculated decisions that could prove calamitous for organizations’ funding.

“This is totally in-line with what we have been talking about,” he said.

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