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Mid-Michigan library millages are up for grabs on the November ballot

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In November of last year, Ionia Community Library was gifted a new, modern building to move into. Now, library director Dale Parus said the move could be in jeopardy if the millage does not pass this November. This will be the library’s sixth attempt.

Their current building was built in 1903, and he said they don’t have the storage space for a larger collection, or conference rooms, and so on. He said they can only operate basic functions of a library, like checking out books.

“(The new building) will certainly be a breath of fresh air for us. Without the building, we just really can’t do anything to improve ourselves at our current location. Opening up the library to a much larger facility actually gets us to about what the state average would be.”

The most recent attempt to pass the millage fell 36 votes short during the August primary.

But Ionia isn't alone. Another library system could experience downsizing if their millage vote doesn’t pass.

Amy Knepp is the library director of Oscoda County Library. She said her library was approved by the state to become a district library in April. She said with a failed millage, the board would most likely cut the budget and close a branch.

But she understands why her library might not see its millage pass, with many voters living on fixed incomes, she said.

"And let’s face it, you need fire, you need EMS, those are the important ones," Knepp said. "Not to say libraries aren’t important, but you know, when you’re on that fixed income you have to prioritize things."

The vote might also be impacted because of confusion on the ballot, she said. The district library was placed in a different section than other county services, like fire and EMS.

Ben Jodway is an intern, serving as a reporter for WCMU Public Media and the Pioneer in Big Rapids. He has covered Indigenous communities and political extremism in Michigan.