Lake County libraries unite for funding

LAKE COUNTY — Last year, the Chase Township Public Library received funding cuts from Chase Township and was faced with a $7,000 deficit. After talk of closing its doors, the library was able to raise enough money to make it through its fiscal year.

Now, the library has partnered with the Luther Area Public Library and the Pathfinder Community Library in Baldwin to work toward a more permanent funding solution.

Even after a proposed .25 mill-millage was defeated last year, the Lake County Libraries have not given up. Another .25-mill library operations millage has since made it to the final version of the ballot for the August primary election, according to Elections Administrator Gail King.

Roxanne Ware, director of the Chase Township Public Library, said the staff has since generated several fundraisers to combat the loss of funds.

The Chase Township Pickle Festival, for example, was created with the goal of raising money to save the library. The festival, which includes a 5K run and walk, will be held again this year on Saturday, Sept. 6.

“The people were so supportive all the way through,” Ware said. “Because of the problems that we were having, the other libraries in the county have all joined together.”

By pooling their resources, all three county libraries have worked together to create flyers and promote their cause through other mediums in the weeks leading up to the primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

“It has taken a lot of time, but we’ve all learned to work together,” Ward said. “It’s just really become a nice support group. We’ve really never worked together before so it’s kind of fun to have these meetings every month.”

Residents of Lake County will be able to use all three libraries free of charge if the proposed five-year millage is successful. The millage itself will be structured to disperse money on a per capita basis to each library and would provide a total of approximately $133,280 in the first year for operational expenses, according to the primary election official ballot.

Ward said the average Lake County home has a taxable value of $48,000. A .25-mill millage would therefore make the annual cost of supporting the three libraries approximately $12 per household.

Each library also agreed to include the old Idlewild Public Library in the millage if it can re-establish a facility.

“All three libraries absolutely need it,” said Luther Area Public Library Director Gail Ganger. “All three are dependent on penal funds. It’s just not covering basic costs. We won’t be able to stay open like we are.”

Ganger said the Luther Area Public Library does receive grants, but that they do not cover the costs of heat and general building upkeep.

“There’s a little bit of state aid, and I mean a little bit,” she said. “It just does not cover what we do here and our day to day costs.”

The Luther Area Public Library will be able to add both programs and hours with money from the millage, Ganger said. The library is currently open 29 hours per week.

The Chase Township Public Library also would reap many benefits from the proposed millage. Ware said it can be a struggle working day to day without knowing what kind of resources she will have available to her.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been easy because we’ve had to cut down on what we could purchase book wise,” she said. “It’s always a struggle so you just learn to take it one day at a time and rely on the support of the people.”

Ward said the community will suffer if any of the Lake County libraries end up closing. Many parents, she said, do not have the time or resources to drive their children long distances during the day just to use the library.

“It’s important to have something there for the kids to keep them entertained and out of trouble,” Ward said.