2017-12-07 / Life in Leelanau


More than books: Leelanau libraries expand offerings

STORIES & MORE, held at 11 a.m. Thursday, is a popular offering at the Glen Lake Community Library. STORIES & MORE, held at 11 a.m. Thursday, is a popular offering at the Glen Lake Community Library. With the holiday season in full swing, we here at the Enterprise thought we’d take an in-depth look at some gifts that keep on giving to the communities of Leelanau — libraries.

Following are updates from the Glen Lake Community Library, Leelanau Township Library and Suttons Bay-Bingham District Library. News from the Leland Township Public Library is located at the bottom of this page.


The Glen Lake Community Library celebrated its 40th anniversary and supporters are looking toward the future with plans for expansion at the library in Empire.

“We’ve been working with an architect on our building expansion/renovation plan,” library director David Diller said. “We have to have a conceptual layout by the end of the year.” Building an “inviting, functional and accessible facility” was one of seven long-term objectives identified in the library’s master plan for 2014- 2024.

LILA HATCH of Northport heads to the Leelanau Township Library to work on the computer when her home internet service is unreliable. LILA HATCH of Northport heads to the Leelanau Township Library to work on the computer when her home internet service is unreliable. To further hone in on the needs of library users, earlier this year the library board surveyed residents in the library’s three-township service area of Empire, Glen Arbor and Kasson townships.

Participants in the January survey were asked open-ended questions about what kinds of programs they would like to see at the library that it presently doesn’t offer and how the library could be a better “destination.”

Among the physical characteristics, 65.8 percent considered good lighting/windows “very important.” Just over half of those surveyed considered a children’s library area as a priority.

BRADLEY CHAPLIN, director of the Suttons Bay- Bingham District Library, says books are only a part of what the library offers. BRADLEY CHAPLIN, director of the Suttons Bay- Bingham District Library, says books are only a part of what the library offers. A community multi-use space, computer technology area and good traffic flow were also “very important.”

Established in 1977, the library first occupied a small rented retail space down the block from its current location on Front Street. In 1983, the library was moved to the former Empire fire hall. Remodeling costs were covered by grants and gifts.

At that time, the library was funded primarily by donations, fundraising, and annual grants from each of the three townships.

However, in 1996 a millage was approved for 20 years, which funded both operations and renovation and expansion of the building.

The millage also allowed for expanded hours and services.

The new building opened in the fall of 1997 and the millage rate was lowered after four years, when the building debt was retired.

In 2013, the library purchased an adjacent lot and a home was removed the following year.

Last August, voters in the three townships approved a .28-mill request for library operations from 2017 through 2021.

Collected in the three-township service area, the levy will generate about $197,000 a year. The remainder of the $224,000 annual budget comes from donations; funds raised by the Friends of the Glen Lake Library, which holds a three-day book sale in August and penal fines which comprise about 1 percent total revenue, Diller said.

Funding for the upcoming building renovation and expansion will be generated through a separate fundraising campaign which will include pursuit of grant funding.

“The timeline for the project will be announced as our plans, including projected costs, become more clear,” Diller said.


Located next to the post office, across the street from the museum and a short walk up the hill from the marina, the Leelanau Township Library is a busy hub in the small town of Northport.

Take last week, when more than 100 children and their families showed up to see how a gingerbread house is made and to decorate cookies at the inaugural Library Saturday.

New library director Nellie Danke said she is aiming to hold Library Saturday at least once a month. This month, at 3 p.m. Dec. 16, Northport opera singer Amanda Kruk will sing and read “The Magic Flute” as part of her Opera Storytime.

Nancy Swink, who is a ‘Friend of the Leelanau Township Library,’ said the library is focusing on all-ages activities and programs that will bring families, children and older members of the community together.

That social aspect is so important, Swink said.

“This is our social media — to come here and get it in print,” Swink said.

Bringing different age groups together is also important in creating a dialogue between children and older people in this hi-tech age, she said.

Another new program is the Library Needleworkers Group, which meets from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month. All needleworkers are encouraged to meet at the library to work on their sewing, knitting or crocheting projects, as well as share ideas and conversation.

The library’s book club has been going for decades, Danke said, and meets at the library from September through May at 1:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month.

There is also Wigglers’ Story Time from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Thursday, where pre-school children and their caregivers can hear a story, sing, do crafts and other activities and have a snack at the free program.

Given the library’s role as a place where people socialize, hold meetings, use one of four public computer stations and, of course, borrow books, expansion has been a goal for several years.

A larger library and new township offices, which currently share the library building, were listed as the top two priorities on the township’s 2017 Community Improvement Plan.

Those two projects, which include having the library spread out to the entire building and constructing a 2,500-square-foot addition, are estimated to cost about $2 million.

The township had discussed seeking a millage in 2018 to fund the projects, but the plan has been since been put on hold until the debt for the township sewer system is paid off.

That debt has a predicted shortfall of $800,000 by the end of the bond repayment schedule in 2028 and township officials will likely seek a millage to pay that shortfall. They have also vowed to tighten their belts until the debt is paid off.

But library users, supporters and employees remain hopeful.

“The Friends group wants to keep it on our radar and make it a priority for the community of Northport,” Danke said.


It’s been a big week for the Suttons Bay-Bingham District Library.

Saturday, members of the Friends of the Library organization decorated the interior of the building with holiday lights and evergreen boughs while kids were invited to enjoy treats and write letters to Santa Claus.

This coming Saturday evening, the library will host its annual “Lights, Bites and Books Gala,” featuring hours d’oeuvres, wine, live music and a silent auction. The Friends group hopes to raise about $5,000 from the event. Part of the money will be used this spring to help develop a children’s garden outside the library building, including a “butterfly way station.”

“We owe so much to the Friends of the Library as well as the entire community for supporting our library,” said library director Bradley Chaplin, who has been in the position since the fall of 2016.

In fact, public support resulted in the beginning of a new era in the library’s history just last year.

In 2016, a substantial majority of voters in Suttons Bay and Bingham Townships, 64 percent, approved a new millage levy to support their library. The five-year, half-mill levy replaced a 0.3- mill allocation the library had been receiving since 1978 from the coffers of the Suttons Bay Township and Bingham Township governments.

The extra revenues allowed the library to add one more day of service every week, Mondays, and expand hours on other days as well.

In addition, the library’s technology budget was increased, resulting in a variety of computer upgrades — among other improvements.

“We want to dispel the notion that a community library is just all about books,” said Chaplin. “Today, books are just a part of what we do. We’re putting a lot more effort these days into teaching, helping and advising people.”

The Suttons Bay-Bingham District Library strives to be a hub of the community for information gathering and lifelong learning, Chaplin said.

“Our library is the one place anyone can go, whether they’re just visiting our community, or they’ve lived here forever, where they can get the information they need, and even the solace they seek,” Chaplin said.

He said that community support of the library has made a huge difference not only in the day-to-day operations of the library, but in the knowledge that resources will be available in the years ahead to keep up with evolving community needs.

“With the new millage and all the other support we’re receiving for the library, we’re able to prepare for the future,” Chaplin said. “We expect this library to be a hub of our community for many years to come.”

Stories and photos by Amy Hubbell (Glen Lake), Eric Carlson (Suttons Bay-Bingham) & Patti Brandt Burgess (Leelanau Township)

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