PLDL and the Hancock Library are open for limited, in-person services with regular hours.

2020: A Year in Review

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Dear Library Friends,

What a strange and difficult year it has been. Sometimes the year seems to have flown by in a blur, and at other times, it feels like we’ve been living with the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic for a long time. While we celebrate a new year and a ceremonial fresh start, I want to take a moment to highlight the Library’s work in 2020. Despite all of the challenges facing our community, Library staff worked hard to meet new and evolving needs for area residents. Here are some 2020 highlights at our libraries that make me proud to work with such an innovative and thoughtful team and community.

PLDL Wins June B. Mendel Award for Excellence in Rural Library Service from the Library of Michigan. This award honored work from our staff at both libraries, and highlighted programming in partnership with the Farmer’s Market, a 7-day arts and ecology expedition to a remote Island in Lake Superior for local teens, the many successes at the Hancock Library, the Library’s summer yoga classes for adults and children and much more. This award is as close as it gets to a “best small library” award in the state of Michigan. 

The Hancock School Public Library was honored with the School Service Award from the Copper Country Association of School Boards and Hancock Public Schools. This award is given annually to one person or group, and honors outstanding service to education and notable contributions to the quality of education above and beyond expectations. The Hancock Superintendent, Steve Patchin, had this to say about the award when it was presented: “The partnership with the Portage Lake District Library and their expertise has helped revive the Hancock School Public Library, which has resumed being an active educational resource for our entire community.” Our staff in Hancock have truly innovated to expand on what a library can do to serve a school district and community. 

Our Read for Relief program kept students and families engaged in reading all summer long, and raised $4,812 for area safety net organizations.  With vital support from our friends at the Portage Health Foundation, Read for Relief took our regular, recurring annual reading program and transformed it into a charitable cause during an economic crisis. None of this would have been possible without the staff who helped carry out this program every day, assisting readers with signing up and logging their hours. 

Despite mandated building closures and the suspension of in-person programming, PLDL has kept our community connected in new ways. It is hard to overstate just how much the staff has innovated on this front, to ensure our patrons have the resources and engagement opportunities they need. Since our initial closure in mid-March, library staff have hosted over 100 virtual storytime events for infants and toddlers. I recent months, patron participation in these events, indicated in part by the craft-kit pickup each week, shows the same level of participation as in-person storytime events.

Another collaboration with the Portage Health Foundation saw us re-envision our Biblio Bistro cooking series, resulting in more public participation than last summer in spite of the pandemic. This year, the program also tied into the Foundation’s new, free CSA distribution for low income families.

Other inventive programming included our online baking series, virtual craft tutorials, and a cycling travelogue series shared on our Facebook page.

In Hancock, the library’s code club moved online for several months, where students were still able to participate, and Library staff prepared 150 school-owned Chromebooks for checkout to students who suddenly had to shift to remote learning.

New services adopted due to limited in-person services are expanding accessibility for the long term. Home bound delivery, curbside pickup, online library card sign-ups, and virtual events are all services initiated due to the COVID19 pandemic. In many ways, these services make it easier for patrons to access the library’s materials and resources not just during the pandemic, but also as we look to a post-pandemic future. I’ve become more aware of the value of these services because of the pandemic, and I think it’s clear that they will remain useful for our patrons in the months and years that follow. Our library may not be 100% accessible right now due to our phased reopening, but these changes have helped ensure better access to patrons in the future.

It’s a new year, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together in the months ahead.

Stay safe, and best wishes for a happy new year.

Dillon Geshel
Library Director

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