The Portage Lake District Library has been awarded the June B. Mendel Award for Excellence in Rural Library Service from the Library of Michigan. The award is given bi-annually and honors the great work done by librarians, library staff and boards at a public library serving a population of less than 25,000. Library staff was scheduled to accept the award at the Small & Rural Libraries Conference in Traverse City this month, but the conference was cancelled.
“It is such an honor to have our staff recognized for their innovative and engaging work in service to our patrons,” said Library Director Dillon Geshel. “PLDL holds a special place in the heart of our community, and we’re proud to stand out as one of the best small libraries in the state.”
Nearly 300 other Michigan libraries were eligible for the award based on their service population. The award has been given since 2016, and this year marks the first time an Upper Peninsula library has been recognized. Support for the award came from area businesses, educators, community foundations and more.
Lynn Makela, co-owner of Hancock’s Quincy 101 Coworking, endorsed the award nomination with a letter of support about collaborative efforts to make a co-working pass available for library patrons. “As an entrepreneur of a business founded for engaging and interacting with the community, this partnership led to new ideas and continues to evolve into interesting opportunities for our area,” said Makela.
The award also honors a partnership with Hancock Public Schools that has seen many improvements at the school district’s public library. Since PLDL began managing the library in November 2018, the overall circulation of library materials has more than doubled; library card sign-ups have more than tripled, and thousands more patrons visited the library, compared to the year prior.
“Hancock Public Schools partnership with the PLDL team has revitalized our rural district library,” said Hancock Public Schools Superintendent Steve Patchin. “Thanks to the PLDL leadership, our school public library is a key intellectual resource in helping our rural community keep pace with the advances in technology and knowledge as the physical and cyber worlds merge.”
Library Board President Jennifer Donovan was delighted to hear about the award. "The board of trustees is thrilled--but not surprised--that Portage Lake District Library won this year's June B. Mendel Award,” said Donovan. “The award recognizes a rural library that is bold and innovative in serving the needs of its patrons and broader community, and PLDL does just that. The Library serves as a vital educational and cultural resource for our community.”
PLDL’s innovation was highlighted in their nomination with a letter of support from the Keweenaw Community Foundation’s Board Treasurer, Chuck Ouellette. “Last summer, the Keweenaw Community Foundation awarded funding to PLDL to assist with their first Rabbit Island School, a student-led arts and ecology expedition to a remote island in Lake Superior,” said Ouellette. “PLDL’s passion for unique, experiential programming opportunities for area students make the library an essential community resource here in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties.”