ImagineIF librarian has an eye for innovation

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Megan Glidden, community engagement librarian, is pictured at ImagineIF Library Kalispell, on Wednesday, Feb. 7. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Play and work are often interchangeable with Megan Glidden’s job.

As the community engagement librarian for ImagineIF Libraries she takes the lead in finding new and exciting ways to connect with the Flathead Valley community. When the county library system rebranded to ImagineIF Libraries a few years ago, it ushered in a new culture of more interactive and hands-on programming that aims to better reflect the diversity of what today’s libraries offer.

Programming became more innovative and community outreach was woven into a visionary strategic plan that earned ImagineIF the Montana Library Association Library of the Year award in 2015.

Glidden quickly found her niche in community outreach. One of the first outreach projects library patrons may remember was providing the tools and format for patrons to build a chicken coop at the main library. Activity zones set up in the front of the library have run the gamut, from weaving to making home-cleaning products.

“We’ve continued to do surprising things that help people think of the library in a different way,” Glidden said. “In the beginning, people were hesitant … Now people have come to not only accept, but expect” these kinds of innovative projects. “People are much more willing to participate. We’ve found diversity and a willingness to try new things.”

Glidden’s upbringing in Taos, New Mexico, gave her insight early on about arts and culture. It wasn’t until she left Taos after high school to attend Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, that she realized “how wonderful Taos was.

“The food, arts, culture, I missed that lifestyle and approach to life,” Glidden said. “It’s more relaxed and caring toward others.”

Glidden earned her undergraduate degree from Vassar in anthropology, with a minor in classical studies. It wasn’t immediately clear what she’d do with the degree, but no matter. She set out to do some traveling and be a ski bum for a while. She’d grown up skiing in the Taos area, working as a ski instructor on weekends during her teen years.

She made good on the traveling goal, spending two summers in Russia. She had learned Russian as a foreign language from an “eclectic” language teacher at her high school in Taos. Spending time in northwestern Russia during the first overseas program was eye-opening, she recalled. Her second trip involved doing environmental assessments between Lake Tahoe in the U.S. and Lake Baikal in Russia.

“Both lakes have some similarities,” she noted.

Though her time in Russia was fascinating, she didn’t see field work as part of her future. As it turned out, her life shifted course while she was back in Taos being a ski bum. She met her husband-to-be, Tyler Glidden, also an avid skier, and they moved to the Flathead Valley after marrying in 2008. They have two children, Arne 5, and Greta, almost 2.

While Tyler taught at Flathead and Glacier high schools for a few years, she jot a job with the U.S. Forest Service, working as an environmental educator at the Forest Service’s Summit Nature Center on Big Mountain. She also worked in the production department at Montana Coffee Traders.

Glidden was hired by the library in 2010, but had been volunteering there for a few years before that. She earned a scholarship through the Montana State Library to get her master’s degree in library science.

She’s had an opportunity to hone not only her creativity but also her public speaking skills in her role as a community outreach librarian. At the Montana Library Association state conference in three years ago she spoke about the hands-on programming ImagineIF offers. In March she’ll be sharing insight about ImagineIF’s leadership role in the state’s Maker Movement at a Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia.

Glidden has been actively involved with the annual Mini Maker Faires held in the Flathead.

This year, to inspire and empower the next generation of innovators, ImagineIF Libraries, Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, Job Service Kalispell and Montana West Economic Development have joined forces to offer Making Montana, a two-day event featuring a Manufacturing and Technology Expo alongside the annual Kalispell Mini Maker Faire. The event will be at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Feb. 23-24.

“Making” is a culture that is based on innovation and experimentation, Glidden explained.

As for the hands-on programming that’s a big part of her job, Glidden said ImagineIF simply keeps moving forward.

“That’s what I love the most,” she said. “”It’s always new and exciting. It never gets boring.

“I never imagined I’d get to do so much fun stuff. ImagineIF is so forward-thinking.”

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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