Library needs public’s support

The Dickinson County Library’s millage renewal will be on the primary election ballot Aug. 7. The renewal is for five years, January 2020 to December 2024, and will replace the existing millage that expires at the end of 2019.

In 2012, the most recent millage vote, Dickinson County residents approved a renewal of .9 mills for 2015-2019 by a 2-1 margin, 2,168 yes to 1,068 no.

Operating millage monies represent approximately 75 percent of the library’s budgeted revenues for 2018.

Michigan public libraries experienced a steep decline in state aid in the early 2000s — 44 percent less in 2011 than in 2001. The rate of decline slowed, but even with modest recent increases, the library receives less state aid now than 10 years ago. The Dickinson County Library received $21,715.24 in state aid in 2007 and $17,176.40 in 2017.

Beginning in December 2009, the library board began funding the library’s Other Post-Employment Benefits liability. The investment account was fully funded in January 2015.

In 2014, the library’s auditor strongly recommended the library board consider funding the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, or MERS, defined benefit liability, similar to what was done with its OPEB liability. It was estimated it would take 10 years to fully fund this obligation. In January 2016, the board began funding the MERS liability, using the funds previously budgeted for OPEB. The library’s most current MERS liability calculation is $1,324,190. Total contributions to date are $230,000 and an additional $45,000 is budgeted for the remainder of this fiscal year.

Thanks to fiscally responsible library boards over the decades, the library has never had to go to the voters to ask for additional funding or bonds for library services, repairs or updates. The library is operating at a lower millage rate now than what was originally approved in 1961, when county-wide library services were first approved.

The library will soon hold an open house to introduce the public to the Iron Mountain site’s interior redesign that began in April. The last update of the main reading room was completed in 1997.

Other improvements over the past several years at the main library include: replacement of entry doors to accommodate handicapped individuals, provide enhanced security and energy savings; updated network cables to Cat6 cable; updated circulation desk; updated the stack lighting and lighting in the back workroom; added a fence in back and between the courtyard and A Street for safety purposes; installed a moveable wall in the Multipurpose Room to increase public meeting accommodations; updated the decor in the Local History Room; and replaced the emergency exit door and side windows in the Children’s Room for enhanced security and energy savings.

Improvements at the Solomonson Branch in Norway include: added a courtyard to expand usable space and accommodate programming; planted new trees along U.S. 2 to protect the building and provide a sound barrier; and refurbished the roof.

At the North Dickinson Branch, services have been expanded to include additional hours, programming and materials.

The library serves all age groups. Children’s programming includes pre-kindergarten, elementary and middle school pupils and young adults. Special programming designed for adults covers a multitude of topics and interests. Many local groups use the library as a meeting place.

In 2017, 115,333 patrons visited our libraries; 160,424 items circulated; 31,986 users were able to use our computers; and 17,875 reference questions were answered by staff. In the first quarter of 2018, staff answered 5,254 reference questions, over 800 more than the first quarter of 2017.

A strong library is a sign of a vibrant community and county. When families are relocating, they research a community to determine if there is a commitment to education and a well-supported library is a symbol of that commitment.

Please support the Dickinson County Library’s millage renewal request when you vote on August 7. It’s a great investment in our community and our future.