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franklin county times

Russellville Public Library director departs for new position in Montana

Russellville Public Library director Ashley Cummins is saying goodbye.

Cummins, whose last day was Feb. 19, will soon begin a new role: executive director of a four-library system in Flathead County, Montana.

Cummins said after attending a library conference, attendees were screened for compatibility, and those who seemed to meet the criteria for the role received recruitment emails.

“At first I didn’t think I would pursue it,” explained Cummins, “but I got more interested as I read over everything and thought about it all further. It was a national search, which made me think I probably wouldn’t get it, but I decided to give it a try anyway and just see what happened, and things started moving quickly.”

It’s an opportunity friends and family said Cummins well deserves, though seeing her go is bittersweet.

“I will certainly miss her,” said Lela Ray, library board chair. “Ashley was an enthusiastic director, and she was always coming up with terrific ways to promote our public library, researching grants and attending workshops.”

Anna Carol Porter, president of the Russellville Friends of the Library board, said Russellville’s loss is Montana’s gain. “I know I speak for a lot of people in saying we’re sad to see Ashley go, but exciting opportunities await her, and she will excel in her new role.

“She’s full of life and creative ideas, and she has an open mind for new adventures,’ Porter added. “Her talents and expertise will serve her well.

“We have become great friends, and I’m going to miss her dearly. She’s resourceful, fair and loyal, and you can always count on her for a job well done.”

The move represents a big change for Cummins. Having lived in Russellville all her life, she said while she will miss her hometown and her friends and family, she’s eager to step up to the challenge of an expanded role in a different place while still doing the work she loves.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity, and the geography there is beautiful,” she said. “My husband is a really outdoorsy person – hiking, kayaking, fishing and other activities – and there’s plenty of opportunities for all of that out there.”

For Katernia Cole Coffey, Franklin County Extension coordinator, although it’s bittersweet, she said she is confident Cummins is well-equipped to meet the challenges ahead of her as she moves forward.

I hate to see Ashley go because she has been has been an outstanding library director and wonderful to work with,” Cole Coffey said. “She has gone above and beyond to provide fun and educational opportunities and activities for this area. I know she will do an outstanding job in her new position, and I wish her continued success.”

Cummins started as a volunteer in the Russellville Public Library in 2009 and began serving on the library staff in 2010. “I worked my way up from there, moving to clerk, assistant librarian and then library director in 2014 when the previous director retired,” Cummins said.

“I’m always up for an adventure, and the system I’m moving into is facing some challenges I’m looking forward to working on addressing,” explained Cummins. “I think it’ll be really rewarding, and I’m looking forward to branching out.

“While I’ll be sad about people and places I’ll miss, it will be exciting, and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

“I’ve known Ashley for years,” explained library employee Joshlyn Bowen, “but I have had the honor of working with her since May 2021. Her intelligence and love for her employees and patrons has been a beautiful thing to experience firsthand. She has worked so hard at creating a voice for the library, and she has spoken excitedly about the future of the new library. I know she will flourish on her journey, and the imprint she has left in Russellville will be irreplaceable.”

Tammy West, vice president of the Russellville library board and liaison to the Friends of the Library, echoed the sentiments of many others and commended Cummins on the job she has done for Russellville. “I went to school with Ashley, and I’ve enjoyed bringing my kids to the many programs she’s organized for the library over the years,” West said. “She is incredibly hard-working, and we have been fortunate to have her with us for so long.”

Franklin County Chamber of Commerce director Cassie Medley said the Chamber wishes Cummins well in her new journey. “Ashley will be greatly missed, and we wish her all the best as she starts this next chapter in her career.”

Cummins said she hopes to see the Russellville library continue to grow. “I’m incredibly grateful for my time with the Russellville Public Library. I have the absolute best staff that I could have ever dreamed of having, and it breaks my heart to think about leaving them,” she said. “They’ve been extremely supportive throughout this whole process, and I’m so grateful for them, as well as the library board, Friends of the Library and the city for putting their faith in me and allowing me to lead the library during the time I was here.

“I hope the goals we’ve been working toward will all come to fruition under new leadership.”