Image by Andy Thompson

On Monday, January 23, I headed to nearby Lakeport, Michigan to meet Jane Fortushniak, branch manager of Burtchville Township Library.

Burtchville Township Library, a branch of the St. Clair County Library System, is located in the northern part of the county alongside the Lake Huron shoreline.

Lakeport is exactly 37 miles (about 50 minutes) southeast of my “home” library, Sandusky District Library. For those not familiar with the area, Burtchville Township Library is about 70 miles (1.5 hours) northeast of Purdy-Kresge Library, home of the School of Library and Information Science, on Wayne State University‘s downtown Detroit campus.

About the Branch

Here’s an interesting history of Burtchville Township Library taken from the library’s website:

“The Burtchville Township Library has been in existence for around 40 years, recently renamed from Lakeport Book Depository. In the early years, it was located at St. Edwards on the Lake meeting place. Later it was relocated to its present site at the old Burtchville Township Hall in Lakeport. The new library, attached to the hall, was completed in 2007 with the help of the township and the Burtchville Friends of the Library. The hall, now used for meetings, parties, and programs, has had a long history. Prior to being a township hall, it was once a one room school and has since undergone several renovations. The present Burtchville Township Library provides a wide range of library materials and services to over 3,500 residents of northern St. Clair County.”

  • Branch circulation for 2011 was cited at 38,357 which was up 2% from 2010 (37,600). 
  • The collection development budget for the branch is $19,500.  
  • 5 staff: 1 branch manager, 3 assistant branch managers, 1 page 

About the Branch Manager
What interested Fortushniak in the field?
It started with her mother who was a student assistant in her school’s library. Her mother being a library person, Jane started going to the library when she was a young child. In fact, Jane followed in her mother’s footsteps and also became a Library Assistant — she’s been in the field since age 14. (I think its safe to say that it’s in her blood.) About her career path, “I never felt that I made the wrong choice. I love library work.”

Round 1: School Media Specialist. Upon graduating from Central Michigan University, Fortushniak practiced school librarianship for 31 years with Deckerville Community Schools. Upon retiring, she went for round 2: Public and Academic Libraries. “I basically got two library degrees,” explained Fortushniak. She graduated from Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science in 1990 with her MLIS and has been with the St. Clair County Library System since fall of 2006.

“I actually graduated from CMU in 1975 with my Bachelor’s in Education with the school library endorsement (as well as English and Journalism) and started working at Deckerville. While working, I took the courses for a Master’s Degree in Education and then went to Wayne for the Master’s in librarianship. As you can tell, I actually like taking classes (obtaining information). It might be part of why I became a librarian.”

Favorite part of the job: “Reference questions.” Fortushniak enjoys the hunt for information which certainly ties in with her minor in undergrad: Journalism.

Review sources: Library Journal, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist

Advice to those entering the profession: “You better be a flexible person. For someone who’s went to library school two times…it changes. If you’re rigid and not flexible, then it’s not the job for you.”

Notes and Observations

  •  When I visited the library for my tour, it was quite busy: patrons returning and renewing materials, browsing the stacks, using the computers, and, of course, reading.
  • Burtchville Township owns the building and the St. Clair County Library System owns the materials. 
  • As branch manager, Fortushniak is responsible for collection development.
  • Popular with patrons: Thrillers and Mysteries. Paranormal Romance is becoming more popular.
  • Cataloging is done primarily at the main branch in Port Huron.
  • An outlet mall, the Book Warehouse, donated some of the shelving units in the library which a local carpenter later customized for the building.
  • Space in the library prohibits special collections at BTL. (The main branch, in Port Huron, typically houses the library system’s special collections.)
  • Like many libraries, the branch experienced DVDs disappearing which prompted staff to begin storing the discs behind the desk. 
  • A few stacks of books adorned with decorative ribbons added eye-candy to the library’s upper shelves…little literary parcels.