Aaron Canen

Aaron Canen, left, who has served as the library’s technical director since 2016, will join a team of five consultants working on the Montana Shared Catalog, a division of the Montana State Library. He is the fourth member of the team that the state has hired out of the Belgrade Library. His sister Addie will take his place.

An unsung hero who has helped the Belgrade Library evolve into what Director Gale Bacon calls “the heart of the community” is moving on to become a consultant for the state of Montana. 

Aaron Canen, who has served as the library’s technical director since 2016, will join a team of five consultants working on the Montana Shared Catalog, a division of the Montana State Library. He is the fourth member of the team that the state has hired out of the Belgrade Library, Bacon said.

In addition to Canen having achieved much in Belgrade – Bacon said “the library has been technologically transformed” in the four years he has been on job – the fact that the state continues to recruit Belgrade’s technicians evidently indicates that the library has a knack for finding exemplary technical employees. 

Now, after a thorough search and vetting more than a dozen excellent applicants, Bacon said she is confident that Canen’s successor will be yet another. She announced this week that the vacancy will be filled by Canen’s sister Addie, who rose to the top of a well-qualified field of candidates due to her knowledge of coding, experience with kids’ programming, and thorough understanding of the library’s technology needs, all gleaned through her three years’ experience with the Glendive Library.

“Addie had all of those bases covered,” Bacon said. “She knows our software system as well as anyone because she was doing what Aaron has been doing at a smaller library.”

While the siblings seem to have come by their technical prowess naturally -- their father also provides technical support for the Glendive Library -- Bacon explained there is more to the job than sitting at a computer and making sure that everything runs seamlessly.

During his tenure with the library, for example, Aaron has worn many hats. He provided one-on-one support to patrons who want to “Book a Tech” or needed technical help in the library. He presented classes on such topics as digital privacy and accessing e-books at the Belgrade Senior Center. He also curated the library’s popular DVD collection and even shared his musical talents at library programs. All the while, he consistently maintained and updated the library’s technology, which is part of “one of the most complex library systems in the United States,” according to Bacon. That’s because it connects the resources of tribal, prison, university, academic and public libraries across such a vast geographical expanse.

“We have a very strong relationship with the shared library,” Bacon said, adding that patrons who log into the Montana Shared Catalog and check out materials through the system have no idea how much is involved in keeping the system running flawlessly.

In addition, the administrative duties of the technical director are significant, and include managing and reporting statistics related to such things as circulation, patronage and interlibrary loans. The reporting is required for Belgrade to maintain its status as a public library.

Also under the technical director’s responsibility is management of the library’s sharing groups, including BridgerNet, which comprises the Belgrade, Bozeman, Manhattan, Three Forks and West Yellowstone libraries. Sharing groups enable patrons to place holds on items owned by other libraries in their group; those items are delivered to the patron’s home library via mail or courier. 

Maintaining the “flawless” user interface patrons enjoy requires nonstop effort, Aaron said.

“There are new apps all the time,” he said. “We’ve replaced nearly 90 percent of the technology in the time I’ve been here.”

Bacon said his behind-the-scenes diligence has been pivotal to the library’s success in serving the community of Belgrade.

“When I started my career, libraries checked out books and did a story time,” she said. By contrast, Belgrade residents today can use the library to access to 97,000-plus circulating materials, take a yoga class, find help preparing their tax returns, or attend educational programs and performances by visiting arts groups.

“We try to draw these thing here so people don’t have to leave town to experience those opportunities,” Bacon said.

Aaron will be available to consult as needed while he transitions to his new position, but Bacon said the library team moved swiftly to find his replacement in order to complete the process as soon as possible. Addie said she was interested in the position job in part because of the numerous opportunities it will provide for professional growth. 

“It was a win-win,” Bacon said.