Funding Search: Library looking to overcome loss

Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette Dillon Geshel, director of the Portage Lake District Library, is working to find funding from other sources so the library can stay open six days per week after Chassell Township withdrew from the PLDL.

HOUGHTON — There hasn’t been a fundraising effort for the Portage Lake District Library since money was raised about 10 years ago for the construction of the library’s current building, but Director Dillion Geshel said another fundraising effort has started to keep it open six days a week.

With the withdrawal of Chassell Township from the district, more funds will be needed to keep the library open Monday through Saturday, Geshel said.

In August 2016, the Chassell Township Board held an election to determine if township residents wanted to withdraw from the PLDL. Voters chose to stay in the district.

Then three months later, the board held another election on the same question, with the given reason that a better turnout would happen in a general election. The majority of voters voted yes.

Chassell Township has been in the PLDL for 20 years, Geshel said.

Geshel said with that vote to withdraw from the district, after Dec. 31, only Portage Township and the city of Houghton will be in the district.

“Nearly 20 percent of our budget was from Chassell,” he said.

That 20 percent represents about $110,000 per year, Geshel said.

Geshel said the current fundraising effort has a goal of $40,000 by the end of 2017. Although the loss of funds from the withdrawal of Chassell Township is $110,000, the $40,000 being sought with the fundraiser will allow the library to stay open Monday-Saturday.

Chassell Township will no longer be part of the PLDL as of Dec. 31 when the current millage ends, but Geshel said the library budget will receive funds from the Chassell Township portion of the millage until June 30, 2018.

Geshel said the PLDL has 40,000 printed items. It also has 10,000 digital items, including DVDs, e-books, audiobooks and streaming items.

Because of the loss of revenue from Chassell Township, Geshel said besides donations, money will have to be found from other sources.

“The library is going to have to focus in the long run much more on grants than we have in the past,” he said.

Although the library has applied for few grants in the past, Geshel said a $3,500 grant was received to help with the library’s summer reading program because it tied into the library’s farmers market, which takes place Tuesdays starting in mid-June.

Local sources for possible grants are the Portage Health Foundation and the Keweenaw Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council, Geshel said.

“We have a lot of programs that are health-related,” he said of the reason for applying for the Portage Health Foundation grant.

Geshel said he’s currently researching other possible grant sources, both national and international.

“That’s where my focus will be very soon,” he said.

The Library Board is also reaching out to donors to help make up the shortfall in funding, Geshel said. One donation program allows donors of $500, $1,000 and $2,000 to have a simulated wooden book spine placed on the “bookcase” located on the wall in the building’s lobby. Two more “bookcases” are going to be constructed to allow for more donors’ books.

“Our shelves are full, and we’re having more built,” he said.

Geshel said donations to the PLDL don’t have to be large enough for the donor to get a “book” on the bookshelf.

“Any donation helps,” he said. “We haven’t reached out in 10 years. Now would be the time to give.”

To learn more about donating to the Portage Lake District Library, call 482-4570, or go online to