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Public library looking for a new home must make do with 19th Century one

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Some Michigan libraries are heading toward the new year trying to make new plans. At least three library millages were voted down in the mid-term elections. One library in Ionia lost a millage increase by only 36 votes.

The millage would have been used to refurbish a donated property for library use. Without that new space, the Ionia Community Library will have to make do in the same facility it’s been in since 1903.

That’s a Victorian-era home, where bookshelves are in bedrooms, said Library Director Dale Parus. The library doesn’t own the home nor the property it sits on, and isn’t allowed to change it.

It was the third year the library lost the millage vote. In 2018, the new millage would have funded a whole construction project, Parus said. The community recommended a refurbishment instead.

"They had actually asked that we’d find some kind of a building to rehab—that was some of our feedback from our loss back in 2018," he said. "We thought (the new proposal) was exactly what the community wanted."

Parus said he's unsure how to provide library services, like meeting rooms and evening classes, without a new building.

“The people have spoken, and we’ll do the basic business that we’re able to do at our place," he said "The additional features that we should be doing that modern libraries do for their communities, that’ll just have to wait.”

The board of directors have not decided on a plan of action yet, but Parus said they might start by asking the city to donate the house and property to the library.

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.