Friday, April 27, 2007

Upper Peninsula Town Meetings

Our final foray in the town meetings saga took Karren, Deb and me to the Upper Peninsula. Our first stop was the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton. It was a beautiful drive up on Monday, April 16th.
On Tuesday morning, bright and early, we arrived at the library where Jim Curtis gave us the grand tour. It's a spectacular view from anywhere on the north or west side of the building, as the library is situated right on the waterway -- and I mean right on it!

The meeting was very well attended, and we were so glad that we made the trek up there to be able to meet with so many folks who can, understandably, not get down to the Lansing area very often . Or, if they do make it down, it's with much more time, effort, and expense than most, given the huge distance between here and there.

The lunch Jim and his staff arranged included local U.P. fare, notably delicious pasties, and we finished it off with tastes of several kinds of fudge. Yum!
On the drive later that afternoon, Karren and I were glad to stop at the edge of Norway, to get a picture of Deb with the sign and the boat. She thinks she's Norwegian, and she looks the part here. We will certainly miss having her around, both because of her dedication and good Continuing Education and other library work, and also because of her lovable nature and fun sense of humor.

We arrived at Escanaba, not quite in the moonlight, but almost. On Wednesday morning we found our way to the Bay de Noc Community College grounds. Director Christian Holmes was unable to join us, but his staff took great care of us and the other participants. The meeting room was not in the library per se, but I got a peak at the library during the lunch break, and I loved the way it is totally surrounded buy a circumference of windows. The library and the college itself were bustling with student activity. Lunch was, as usual, a treat.

The group discussion included quite a bit of sharing related to the issues faced by the school/public libraries and about the funding and umbrella bureaucracy challenges faced by the public libraries as well. The participants had traveled from various directions, from Menominee and Munising, and from nearby locales of course.

We traveled our way over to St. Ignace along Route 2 and enjoyed the view as we drove. The trip was shorter than some of the other afternoon ventures we'd had, so it was nice to take a bit of a walking tour and do a bit of window shopping at the bookstore and a couple of antique places in St. Ignace before taking time at the end of the day for a good dinner. The ferries were all lined up and ready for action for the impending tourist season.

I've been to the St. Ignace Public Library a few times, but I still love to see how it's nestled on a tree covered hill on the curve of the road just above town. Director Cindy Patten was, as always, a great host, and we finished off our tour with our last fabulous lunch, before the post-town-meeting-tour diet! The discussion of this, the last of the 13 meetings, yielded great discussion and a couple of really innovative ideas for how to get MeL more visibility and how to enable local libraries to mirror the look of MeL and tie their resources into the offerings found there.

Thirteen meetings were a lot to accomplish -- a lot of planning, traveling, and interaction. But I'm truly glad that I was able to do it and to get to talk to over 400 librarians from all over the state of Michigan, from all types of libraries, and with all sorts of concerns, successes, and new ideas to share. Thanks, everyone!

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