Image by Andy Thompson

On Thursday, December 1, I met with the fabulous Carole Brown who is the Library Director at Reese Unity District Library.

Location
Reese Unity District Library is located in downtown Reese, Michigan. The Village of Reese is situated on the westside of Tuscola County. In fact, a small portion of Reese is in Saginaw County.

For those not familiar with the area, Highway M-81 runs right through the middle of Reese. I-75 is just a few more miles west of the village limits. Depending on the route taken, Reese Unity District Library is about 100 miles northwest of Purdy-Kresge Library, home of the School of Library and Information Science on Wayne State University’s downtown Detroit campus.

History
Reese Library, as we know it, originally started off as a branch of Bullard Sanford Memorial Library (Vassar). It was eliminated from their library system at a later time. After the branch was eliminated, with just 700 books in the collection, “Unity” was added to the library’s name.

According to the library’s website, it opened in 1990 and was “re-established” in 2000. Also in 2000, Harry Bader, owner of the local John Deere franchise, donated the property and building where the library is currently housed; however, they have only been in the building for about 8 years. Due to Bader’s generosity, the library has officially made their colors John Deere green and yellow.

The library’s motto is reflective of a rural, agricultural community: “Planting the seeds of knowledge, cultivating learning and exploration, harvesting opportunity.” (I love this!)

Service Area, Size, and Operating Budget
RUDL serves the Village of Reese and Reese Public School as well as the following townships: Blumfield (shares with Frankenmuth Library), Buena Vista, Denmark, and Gilford. The Village of Reese is home to 1,400 people while the district holds 6,000 people. Currently, there are about 3,000 active library cards with Reese Unity.

Recently, Reese Unity District Library, open 38 hours a week, became a Class II agency which according to the Library of Michigan needs to meet the following standards:

  • Serves a population of 4,000 to 6,999;
  • Be open a minimum of 20 hours per week;
  • Employ (at least 20 hours per week) a director with at least a Level 4 certificate. 

Reese Unity District Library has about 25,000 items in its collection and circulates around 37,000 items annually (without counting computer check-outs). The library has 4 staff members and an operating budget of about $100,000.

About the Director
A lifelong user of the library, Carole described her childhood weekly visits as “a necessity like food.” As noted in the history section, Reese Library originally started off as a branch library of Bullard Sanford. What I didn’t mention is that Carole is the original librarian — 22 years on the job. (Congratulations, Carole). The biggest change she has seen: a group of kids who once used to attend story hour at the library are now adults. Many of them now have children of their own.

In listening to Carole talk about the library’s programming, one word comes to mind: innovative. From cooking  and gardening classes, antique appraisals, author visits to jugglers and magicians, and even a Dr. Seuss party — RUDL has done it. About her work in the library, she says, “We do whatever we can and keep the community in mind!” 

Her favorite part of the job is the book discussions which meet the first Tuesday of the month. For her inspiration, she walks through the library and browses the stacks. She also thoroughly enjoys giving tours to school children.

Carole’s advice to those entering the profession is this, “Stay focused and have a vision for the community.”

Intellectual Freedom
Last year, when I was required to visit several libraries for LIS 6010 with Dr. Maria Gonzalez, I began asking librarians how the Harry Potter series was received in the community. The series has experienced controversy over the years and has landed itself on the frequently challenged materials list compiled by the American Library Association.

According to Carole, “It was well received…but not as big as I thought it would be.”

Notes and Observations

  • The library became automated in 2002 thanks to a collaborative grant with a school librarian. 
  • The Friends of the Library designed afghans which included images of historical local buildings. The afghans went over so well they sold out!
  • Special collections include: genealogy, Michigan history, plat books, and a couple of books on haunted buildings in the area by D. Lawrence Rogers.
  • When I visited the library, they were just finishing a remodel of the building — fresh paint and beautiful new carpeting.