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Pine River Library named best small library in U.S.
1/31/2014 By: Melanie Brubaker Mazur
Library Journal honors local institution for innovation, outreach
Pine River Library Director Amy Dodson, center, and library staff got to ham it up for a photo shoot with Library Journal, one of the oldest library publications in the country.
When Amy Dodson and her small staff at Pine River Library decided to apply for Library Journal’s annual award for Best Small Library in America, they thought they were doing it for the experience, or maybe even getting a shot at being a finalist.
When they learned at the end of December that they had actually won the award, they were shocked.
And now they’re really, really proud and pleased, as well, and a bit richer – the award includes a $20,000 prize from the Gates Foundation. “I was just ecstatic,” said Judy London, president of the library’s board, explaining that the award confirms the staff’s aspirations that the library district has a “living library.”
“The staff deserves it,” she said of the library’s 11 full-time and part-time employees.
Dodson, the library’s director for the past year, is quick to share the credit for the award.
“It’s the board, the volunteers, the Friends of the Library, and the community,” Dodson said.
The library is featured in several pages in the Feburary edition of Library Journal. Among the innovations at the library noted in the article are:
•More than 50 laptops, GPS devices, e-readers and more available for checkout.
•teen and youth programming
•free movies and documentaries shown to the public
•community classes and events, including yoga, book groups, and more
•staff development and education.
•a partnership with the Bayfield School District to provide children’s programming for the district’s late start days.
Both Dodson and London are proud of the library’s physical space as well. A 4,000-square-foot addition was completed in 2013, bringing the interior’s total to 13,000 square feet of meeting rooms, computer and book areas, and children’s and teen spaces. Then work started on the Living Library, a community garden and outdoor space constructed last summer with the help of a lot of volunteer labor.
Southwest Ag donated backhoe and equipment time, and BP provided gasfield pipe that was recycled into fences and bridges by local artist Kelly Hurford. Local nurseries provided many of the plants growing in the new space, which includes a geodesic dome, stawbale toolshed, and beehive.
There were many other donors, as well as the taxpayer fund that keeps the library open and growing, London noted.
Inside, a fireplace and cozy reading chairs purchased by the Friends of the Library have made it one of the most popular places for folks to sit down and read a book or surf the Internet, Dodson said.
London said the library’s success and beautiful facilities didn’t come about overnight. It took a lot of work from the previous boards, including financial planning by past trustees Dan Ford, Don Magill and Valerie Borge, she explained, and others prior to that.
The library’s history extends far into Bayfield’s past. Volunteers from the Bayfield Study Club, longtime board member Lavenia McCoy and others built the library over the years when it had only two staff members, including longtime director Donnalee Baxstrom, and stacks of books in cramped space on Mill Street.
The district’s annual funding now has grown to a budget of $582,000, or $66.52 per capita for district residents. That brings in a lot of people: the library has a circulation of 111,638; along with 217,896 virtual visits, and growing attendance at community events.
The library’s current staff includes Dodson, who has worked as a librarian in Riverside, Calif. and Kentucky; Karen Lemke in public relations and adult services; Elizabeth VonTauffkirchen, the children’s services coordinator; Becky Van Den Berg, the teen services coordinator, Judy Poe, development director; Sven Skoglund, IT specialist; Brooke Smith, circulation manager; Brenda Marshall, office manager
and circulation assistants Lisa Madona, Bethany Murga and Stephanie DeMerse.
The library district’s board members are London, vice-president Cheryl Clay, who oversaw the taskforce on the recent expansion, past president Russell Burwell, Hunter Swanson, Elaine Labach and Sarah Wortis.
The article in Library Journal can be found online at the district’s website, prlibrary.org.
London said the board hasn’t yet decided how to spend the $20,000 prize money, but it will fulfill the library’s mission of education “and serving as a catalyst for community activity.”