September 22, 2014

Omer library beginning final stages of renovations

Paying for bathroom, Native American artwork with district library funds

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OMER — The Omer Little Eagle’s Nest Library is planning on finishing its restroom renovations with $10,000 it received from the Iosco-Arenac District Library, the Omer City Council announced at its meeting Feb. 12.

The money will also go toward purchasing artwork, such as sculptures or baskets, to decorate the library, according to Councilman Robin Berry. The stipulation: the artwork must be Native American.

The council agreed that the renovated bathroom would retain one urinal, while the stall would be replaced with a handicapped-accessible one. The council also agreed to prepare to put the project out for bids.

Any money left over after getting the bathroom renovated and art pieces purchased could go toward a cabinet to store things in at the library, Berry said.

Iosco-Arenac District Library Director Stephanie Olson said the renovations should save the library money in the long run, as the new toilets should be more water-efficient than the existing ones, and she believes there will be electrical savings with new lighting as well.

Olson said the money is part of a three-year program for all eight branch libraries in the district to refresh and make renovations to their buildings and property. This year is the final year of the initiative.

“For years, the district didn’t do anything with furniture or shelving in the libraries — it was always the local units of government,” Olson said. “But they didn’t have the money either.”

Each library gets $10,000, she said, and submits a wish list of projects they want to use it for. The library board reviews the list, Olson makes recommendations, and, if approved, the libraries can go ahead with their proposals.

Past projects have included new shelving and women’s restroom renovations at Omer, as well as decorations for the children’s area. At Standish’s Mary Johnston Memorial Library, the money has been used to repaint the building, landscaping work, a new signage and art, bathroom linoleum, and carpet tiling. This year the library hopes to finish the paint job, Olson said.

The Au Gres Community Library has gotten new artwork and blinds for its windows, Olson said, adding the blinds also help block particularly cold and hot weather.

“It’s always useful for when you get a lot of windows,” Olson said.

The library district collects a millage for operating costs, but that money is restricted and cannot be used for improvements to the buildings. Similarly, Olson said the money given out as part of this program cannot be used to purchase new materials or for operating costs. The funds come through penal fees collected in the respective counties.

“The (program) idea being we would refresh these libraries, because a lot of them haven’t had much TLC for a while,” Olson said. “There just wasn’t money there.”

She said the board would likely look at replacing the program with something similar going forward to continue supporting the branch libraries’ efforts to improve their spaces.

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