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He Could Only ImagineIF

Public Service Librarian Tony Edmundson has worked for the Flathead County library system for 17 years. He has fond memories of the many people who have walked through the doors of ImagineIF libraries. One gentleman in particular made a lasting impression on Tony and the rest of the staff: Jim Bradshaw.

Jim loved history, foreign affairs, and government, and held a master’s degree from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He worked in foreign service and traveled the world, creating libraries in far-flung places like Rangoon and Mandalay, Belgrade, Hongkong, Warsaw, and Athens. He would stock the library in every location with quality reading materials on everything from science to art and music. Over time, Jim also amassed an extensive personal library.

"He had thousands of books that he carted around from one foreign post to another," his daughter Julie Sherrick recalls. "Whenever we would return home to the States, we'd stay with my grandparents, and we would always visit Dad's childhood library and the librarian, Mrs. Latimore. She was a very important person in his life. He must have spent a lot of time, afternoons after school, just hanging out in the library.”

Jim was 80 when Julie helped her parents move to Kalispell. One of the first things Jim did was to visit the local library. He was impressed with the far-reaching inter-library loan connections ImagineIF had with universities and public libraries nationwide. "The library really eased the transition for him," Julie remembers.

Not long after moving to Kalispell, Jim suffered a heart attack. His recovery included a recommendation for daily exercise. “The fact that he walked back and forth to the library after his heart attack was huge,” Julie says. “It really did keep him fit."

"Every time Jim would come in, he would ask me what I was reading," Tony recalls. "If it was a classic, one of the great works, his eyes would light up. Then, he would share when and where he was when he read that book and recite a passage. And I'm not talking about just an opening line; I mean an entire passage."

Not long after they moved to Kalispell, Jim and his wife's health deteriorated and they moved into an assisted living facility. Then COVID hit. Julie could no longer see her parents in person, so she left books for her dad. “He would have a list of books ready, and I would go pick them up. It was a very isolating time, and it was great to have the books every day to look forward to.”

Knowing his time was limited, Jim told Julie that he wanted to leave money to ImagineIF and asked his friends to contribute to the library in his memory. Julie recalls her dad's instructions about his personal library: "The week before he died, Dad said, 'I want you to call Tony when I'm gone and get him to come over.' Dad cared about what was going to happen to his books. They were his friends. They were like people to him."

Tony and another librarian, Susan, carefully packed the books and maps Jim had collected. "These were his most precious possessions," Julie explains. "I was so grateful they were willing to treat these items with such respect."

“My aspirations of becoming a librarian had so much to do with what Mr. Bradshaw thought a librarian was, how he valued the profession,” Tony says. “We were fortunate to have known him, and to share this love of reading. Part of my mission every day is to spark that same joy and passion in others.”

Please visit the library's website or stop by your local branch of Flathead County's ImagineIF Libraries and see for yourself what a modern library has to offer. Any librarians you meet will be happy to help, answer questions, point you to a great resource, or recommend a great read.


Photo of Jim Bradshaw: Lido Vizzutti