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Montana Library Association to honor Missoula board member

Abe Abramson flew to Washington, D.C., last week to help honor the Library of Congress on its 200th anniversary. On Wednesday, Abramson will be one of five Montanans to be honored for efforts to help libraries.

He will be recognized in Billings by the Montana Library Association as a Special Friend to Libraries.

"He has, more than any other Montana citizen, supported Montana libraries on statewide and national issues with his time, expertise and his own funds," wrote Jim Heckel, director of the Great Falls Public Library.

A 56-year-old real estate agent in Missoula, Abramson has made libraries his special cause. He became interested in libraries as a child growing up in an Air Force family.

"Every place we went there was a good library, a professional library that was well-stocked," he explained. "I took them for granted."

In 1975, when he was looking for some civic involvement in Missoula, he said, libraries caught his eye. He was appointed to the Missoula Public Library board and now is a member of the Library's Foundation Board. He has served for several years as a Montana state library commissioner and as a delegate to the governor's conference on library issues.

He now is a presidential appointee on the National Commission on Libraries and Information Sciences, a rare and distinguished honor for Montanans.

"Of all the federal commissions, this is the only one by law that advises the president and Congress," Abramson said.

The commission is involved in everything from copyrights to kids and the Internet to ways to make it easier to get government information.

His five-year term with the commission is up July 19, but he may reapply for another term.

Under Abramson's efforts, the Missoula Public Library's Foundation has set aside money each year for staff development, conference attendance and library association memberships.

"We're the envy of the rest of the state," Abramson said.

The Foundation started with $60,000 that people gave the library some six years ago. Now, it's grown to more than $200,000.

"We're able to do a lot of things like matching funds," he explained.

As a lobbyist, Abramson has battled for the rights of people who are blind or have another physical handicap, and for special hookups for rural and nonprofit schools and libraries.

"Libraries are too important to be left to librarians," Abramson said.

"I'm not taking anything away from libraries. They have a job they need to do. But they need help from the outside," he explained.

Reporter Donna Syvertson can be reached at 523-5267 or at dsyvertson@missoulian.com.

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