Library director wins state award

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Portage Lake District Library Director Dillon Geshel, above, has received the Michigan Library Association’s Up and Comer Award for 2018.

HOUGHTON — In some respects, the Portage Lake District Library is about 11,000 square feet on the Houghton waterfront. In others, it’s extending its reach to the Houghton downtown, across the canal and beyond.

The Michigan Library Association announced Thursday the library’s director, Dillon Geshel, has won its Up and Comer Award for 2018. He will accept the award at the MLA annual conference in Novi next week.

The award recognizes librarians who show leadership early in their career, and by being forward-thinking, move libraries into the future.

Geshel said the award recognizes the work of the whole staff.

“My favorite part of this job has been finding non-traditional ways to meet the community’s needs,” he said. “I see this award as recognition that we’re doing that work, and that it’s a benefit to the community, that we’re a library that has a lot more than just books on the shelves.”

Also this week, the library announced patrons can check out a two-day pass for 101 Quincy Coworking. It also launched a partnership with Houghton’s downtown farmers market, in which people received vouchers for the market as rewards for the summer reading program. In the past year, the library has also made tablets available for checkout.

“We’re looking at ways we can continue to spread information outside of the traditional formats, looking at what people are using today,” Geshel said.

The library is in the middle of a strategic planning process. It surveyed 185 community members and held five focus groups to find out what they want it to do in the future.

“That’s in the works right now, but I would just like to see our library continue to be an innovator in terms of shared resources and engagement,” he said. “What other resources are out there in the community that people might otherwise be priced out of? How can the library find a way to help make those sort of things available?”

Geshel would also like to see more community meeting space in the library. With the current library bond not expiring until 2030, that will likely have to come from rearranging existing floor space, Geshel said.

Since the award’s inception in 2012, the MLA has given it three times. Geshel is the first Upper Peninsula librarian to receive the award.

Maria Bergstrom, president of the library’s Friends of the Library group, is excited to see Geshel recognized for his effort. She credits him with bringing a new vision for the library’s role in the community.

“He’s been so creative in thinking about ways to each out to the community and bring the community into the library and think about what the needs are the library can serve,” she said.

Events like Nerf Gun battles are a fun way to get children into the library who might not normally come, Bergstrom said.

Geshel became the library’s director in December 2015. He’d been working at the library as a page since 2010, aside from a year at Northern Michigan University. He joined the library as an undergraduate at Michigan Technological University, still unsure what he wanted to do with his life.

“At that point it kind of just clicked for me,” he said. “This is a way I could be around books and other people who loved books, and make a career out of it.”