In 2001 the Friends of Missoula Public Library decided that Montana needed a book award in order to recognize literary and artistic excellence.  Montana is home to a large number of astounding writers and honoring some of them each year brings attention to their work and their craft, attracts readers, and promotes great literature.  With representation from all parts of the state, the Montana Book Award achieved immediate success as eloquently described below by Diane Smith, winner of the first Montana Book Award, in her acceptance speech:
“…the Montana Book Award has done all Montanans a great service…it’s  a subtle but very important form of economic development, for the writing profession brings money into the state and, in the process, leaves a very small environmental footprint.  And, writing is a profession in which, unlike the industries of the past, the rewards of the worker’s labor stay in the state, and the product these workers produce enriches us all.  Anything we can do as a community to encourage, support and recognize our writers—and give then voice—is greatly needed.  When the Missoula Friends of the Library and others in the state publicly recognize our work, and announce that our work has ‘value,’ it helps all of us broaden and deepen our audience, and ultimately gives us a platform to affect the kinds of change we would like to see.”