(Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the Peninsula Township Board held a special meeting about the idea of switching our township governance from a general law township to a charter township. At the meeting, the budget of Peninsula Community Library was brought up. Library Director Vicki Shurly clarifies that information below, including what that number on your taxes means and where it goes. For more on the history of libraries in Grand Traverse County, check out the book “Beyond Books: Stories of Traverse Area Libraries,” by Heather Shumaker. Of course, it’s available at PCL. -jb)
I was not able to attend the township meeting Wednesday on the Charter Township discussion. However, it has come to my attention that there may have been a misperception when the library budget was mentioned in the course of a discussion over township taxes. I am grateful to PCL Board member Nancy Davy who brought this to my attention. So here we go, a lesson in Library Funding 101 – but first, a little history!
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Peninsula Community Library (PCL) opened on the stage of the then-new Old Mission Peninsula School in 1957. In 1958, by the vote of the people of Peninsula Township, PCL became a certified public township library under the laws of the State of Michigan and was established under State Act 164 of 1877 on Village and Township Libraries.
Things rolled along nicely for a number of years in a township that was still mostly rural. In 1984, what was then the Traverse City Library decided to ask the voters of Grand Traverse County if they could become a district library under state laws. The voters said yes, and the Traverse Area District Library (aka TADL) was born.
The new district, however, encompassed four pre-existing independent libraries – Fife Lake Public Library, Interlochen Public Library, Kingsley District Library, and your very own little Peninsula Community Library, which had moved off the stage of the school into a large area of its own. These independent libraries wanted to remain independent and petitioned the State to remain so. The State granted the request with the stipulation that they would operate within the new district, serving each other’s patrons equally and contracting with TADL for services and funding.
Three of those libraries to this day remain independent with their own local elected boards making local decisions that reflect the best interests of their unique communities. Kingsley would later become a branch of TADL because library law was amended and a district library was no longer allowed within another district library. Just as a note, East Bay is also a branch of TADL. We are often mistaken for a branch, but we are not.
What did this mean for PCL and the other independent libraries that became known as Member Libraries? State law sets class of library by the population of the library’s service community. Interlochen and Peninsula are Class 2, Fife Lake Class 1. By contrast, TADL is Class 6. State law mandates by class the minimum hours a library must be open to the public, as well as minimum funding.
Our contract with TADL not only provides more than the minimum funding for PCL, it also assures services and support unheard of in most Class 2 libraries: wireless access 24/7, computers for staff and laptops for patrons, a digital card catalog that is available in mobile format, digital books and movies and magazines, tech support and … well, more than I can list here!
We are an amazing Class 2 library because of our unique and special relationship with the Traverse Area District Library. And we ARE unique! The member library system exists nowhere else in the state.
What does TADL receive in return? Service for patrons in far reaches of the county without the responsibility of governing additional branches. It is truly both a successful business relationship and a sincere friendship. That brings us up to today in our beautiful new building constructed almost entirely on community donations, not a single tax dollar!
Back to your tax statement. The amount there actually goes fully to the Traverse Area District Library. They serve as the taxing entity. Via contract negotiated by PCL and TADL’s boards, support comes back to PCL by way of operating funds, services and so much more.
That funding gives you access to the vast collections and programming of the District Library, as well as the libraries in Fife Lake, Interlochen, East Bay, Kingsley and, of course, Peninsula. Take a road trip sometime! Every institution is unique and special. Your library card is good at all of these!
How are the funds at PCL budgeted? That is, by state law, the role of your elected library trustees, who must be residents of Peninsula Township. While the Township holds most of the library’s funds in a trust and agency account, it is the library board that determines how they are spent, and the library director who implements those expenditures. Your board of six, elected every four years, does a great job!
PCL has an amazing collection of 25,000 items, and it also sponsors diverse programming based on a budget this year of $335,300. That covers staffing, collection acquisition, programming, building and grounds maintenance, utilities, supplies, repairs, accounting services, equipment, legal services, staff training and communications, but does not include all the tech and advisory services that TADL so generously offers.
The vast majority of PCL’s funding comes from that contract with TADL, but we also receive funds from state aid, donations, and miscellaneous support. It all adds up to a great community library that offers you so much!
Phew! That’s a lot to digest. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. My email is [email protected], or stop by the library sometime. I encourage all of you to use your library. It is truly the treasured heart of our community!
Your Library Director,
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb