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PLDL wins service award, continues to offer services

(Image provided by Portage Lake District Library) While the Portage Lake District Library is currently closed due to the Coronavirus, a number of their resources and services remain available online.

HOUGHTON – Last week, Portage Lake District Library in Houghton received the June B. Mendel Award for Excellence in Rural Library Service from the Michigan Library, a branch of the Department of Education. PLDL is the first Upper Peninsula Library to receive the award.

“Our staff work really hard to provide exceptional service and they do that to broaden the scope of what a library can do for a community,” PLDL Director Dillon Geshel said in a phone interview.

The process for entering for the award involved PLDL receiving letters of recommendation from other community resources, including the Keweenaw Community Foundation and Quincy 101 Coworking.

The award was given in recognition of PLDL’s many community partnerships including the Rabbit Island School – an opportunity for six students to spend a week on the island in Lake Superior studying art and science. Further, since the PLDL began working with the public Library in Hancock Central Highschool last winter, library card issuance has more than tripled and circulation of library resources have more than doubled.

“We’ve seen library use skyrocket,” said Geshel. “We’re a community hub in Hancock. Besides the public schools, Hancock doesn’t really have any community centers.”

While it’s unknown how many rural Michigan Libraries applied, there are some 300 libraries in the state that were potentially eligible. The award is given every two years at the Small and Rural Libraries Conference, which was cancelled this year due to the Coronavirus.

The timeline for applications means that PLDL’s efforts to expand library services during the quarantine were not considered.

“We moved pretty quickly to ensure that our recurring children’s events could still be held if the library had to close,” said Geshel.

Before Governor Whitmer’s Stay-at-Home Order, the library offered curb-side book pickup. While it has since stopped offering this service at PLDL, the library has started using Facebook Live to hold children’s story time events three times each week, a read-aloud session of a middle-school level book twice each week, and an “Ask a Librarian” event wherein a PLDL librarian explains how to access digital resources.

The PLDL has also expanded the digital resources available to patrons, including Ancestry and the Foundation Directory Online – services that had previously only been available on PLDL computers.

“There are a number of library resources that we subscribe to for our patrons but, due to licensing restrictions, we’re only able to make available inside the library,” said Geshel. “But some of the providers have loosened those restrictions so we can now offer those services through our membership.”

PLDL through the Hancock Public Library has also worked to make sure that library materials are available to students by doing book processing at home and making books available for pickup with weekly food distribution at the school. Students are also now able to sign out school Chromebooks if needed.

“We wanted to make sure that students had access to everything that they need to keep up with their schoolwork,” said Geshel.

For more information about PLDL services and how to participate in library remote events, visit PLDL.org or facebook.com/pldl.org/

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