Library weathers a challenging year, nets grant for more improvements
Fri, 01/29/2021 - 3:13pm caleb
Local facility makes it through shutdowns and renovation project, prepares for more upgrades to provide additional connectivity
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Crawford County Devereaux Memorial Library weathered a difficult 2020 – a year that included shutdowns due to COVID-19 regulations in the state of Michigan and significant delays in its renovation project – but now it is moving forward with its improved facility, and a recent grant award will allow for even more upgrades.
A year ago, the Devereaux Memorial Library was in the middle of a major reconstruction project when the governor’s stay-at-home orders forced the facility to close to the public.
“So at that point it was kind of a blessing because it left the building free of having to work with the public and deal with the renovation at the same time,” said Connie Meyer, Crawford County Library Director.
Later, construction companies had to stop working because of the shutdowns, and the renovation work had to be put on hold. In early May, the governor announced a new executive order that allowed construction companies to go back to work, and the renovation project proceeded.
As the project continued, the Frederic Library was able to open with restrictions. Meyer said people needed to use the library system’s computers during that difficult time to apply for unemployment benefits and other assistance, and the Frederic Library was able to offer those assets.
“They rely on the library to be able to do those things,” Meyer said. “Thank God for the Frederic Library being intact.”
The Devereaux Memorial Library reopened on September 1 of 2020. The completed renovations included new entrances, new rooms, and other improvements. The added space allowed the facility to keep people distanced while in the library.
“We’re very fortunate we have the square footage to be able to provide the social distancing to provide services to the community,” Meyer said.
Meyer said the library’s computers were “up and running just in time for school” as students returned to the classrooms.
Meyer said “people have adjusted” with regard to the library not being able to have crowds of kids inside during after school hours, and it’s gone well.
“Kids are so resilient,” Meyer said.
Meyer said library patrons have been supportive and understanding during a year filled with difficulties brought on by the pandemic and the renovation delays.
“The public has been so patient. The patrons have been so kind, rolling with the punches with this project,” Meyer said.
One of the biggest changes in the interior of the library is the addition of more conference rooms. Previously, there was only one.
“The one conference room we had was booked all of the time,” Meyer said.
Now, people can bring laptops and other devices, connect to the library’s screens, and run conferences or other online meetings in the rooms, Meyer said.
The library recently received a $10,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation to add even more technology to its conference rooms.
“(The grant) was written to enhance audio visual connectivity for our conference rooms,” Meyer said.
One conference room is external with its own entrance/exit and restroom, Meyer said, and another – the one the library uses for its summer reading program – has an expandable wall to allow for flexibility of use. The grant will help provide more screens for the conference rooms, allowing for more options. Meyer said all of the library’s conference rooms will be connected through screens, offering the capability for one large conference to be held at the library while still keeping people distanced.
The library has had to suspend some of its usual programs and services in the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the staff is finding ways to serve the community in different ways, including the creation of a YouTube channel to offer virtual story hour for children.
The Devereaux Memorial Library’s MeLCat service for requesting books from other libraries is available again, but it is somewhat limited because not all libraries in Michigan are open.
The library also offers movies for check out in addition to its selection of books. Meyer said the library recently bolstered its stock of movies by purchasing DVDs from Family Video at an “extremely reduced rate.”
Because Family Video is closing, the library wanted to have more movies in stock for people because not everyone in the county has enough internet access to stream movies online.
“We just don’t have the WiFi connectivity in the rural areas to stream movies,” Meyer said.
Mobile WiFi hotspot devices are a popular rental item at the library. Meyer said the library has 13 of them and she would like to be able to purchase more.
“They’re very popular. I need about 400 of these. For the most part, people are having real good connectivity luck with them,” Meyer said.
Meyer said people can request one of the mobile hotspot devices with their library card either online or by telephone. The library’s website is http://www.crawfordco.lib.mi.us. The phone number is (989) 348-9214.