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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Portage Library to celebrate 10th anniversary in waterfront location June 10; new director introduces new digital resources

By Michele Bourdieu

Portage Lake District Library Director Dillon Geshel (standing, center) welcomes visitors during the library's Open House in April. The public is invited to the Portage Library's 10th anniversary celebration this Friday, June 10. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HOUGHTON -- On Friday, June 10, everyone is invited to celebrate the Portage Lake District Library's tenth anniversary of outstanding community service in its location on Houghton’s waterfront. Cake and beverages will be served in the community room from noon to 3 p.m. Friday. Patrons who have library fines will also be able to receive up to $10 in Fine Forgiveness on June 10th.

The Portage Library's new director, Dillon Geshel, says this is an opportunity for the public to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the library as well as browse the shelves, enjoy exhibits, and learn more about "what's new" at the library.

During the Portage Lake District Library Open House in April, Library Director Dillon Geshel, center, pauses for a photo with his Dad, Brian Geshel, left, and Jay Fedorocko, Portage Library trustee from Chassell. Brian Geshel, Apria Health Care operations manager, is happy about son Dillon's new position as Library Director: "I'm very proud," Brian said. "I'm glad to see that he found such a rewarding job in our community."

Dillon Geshel is excited about new resources at the library. These include Instant Flix, a collection of films available digitally, and Scola, which provides access to T.V. programs and news articles in foreign languages.

Instant Flix: A digital library of more than 7,000 films

Instant Flix is a collection of independent films, short films and classic TV shows people can watch from a digital streaming platform. It's very similar to Netflix, but with a focus on independent films and documentaries, Geshel explained. It also allows you to browse films through film festivals such as Cannes, Sundance, etc.

"It's a Web site where people can watch all these movies," Geshel said. "That's a resource that I'm really excited about [Instant Flix], because we only have so much space in the library for physical material."

Scola: TV programs in many languages

Since the beginning of May, Portage Library has been offering patrons access to Scola, a non-profit organization that receives and transmits TV programs from foreign countries in the native language of each country. Geshel said this is a great resource for foreign language learning (in addition to the library's Mango program) and also useful for international students in the community.* They can watch the TV news from their country in their own language and download it as well.

During the Portage Lake District Library's  recent Photo Challenge, "Libraries Transform Communities," a young participant displays her sign telling why libraries matter to her: "They can help you learn a language on Mango."* (Photo courtesy Portage Lake District Library)

Scola also has a component that allows you to search for a newspaper article and read it in the native language.

"Not only can you read the newspaper article in the native language, but you can also have it translated into English," Geshel noted.

During the library's Open House during National Library Week in April, visitors were able to see some short films from Instant Flix and learn how to use the Scola resources.

During the Open House, Portage Library Director Dillon Geshel chats with Chris Alquist, center,  Portage Library community programs coordinator, and Ellie Alexander, substitute librarian. Alquist commented on the good turnout at the Open House, while Alexander compared the present Portage Library location to the former one (now the Carnegie Museum), where she also worked. "I like both of them," she said. "I like this one because it's like being on a boat. The old one had a good ambiance." This Friday, June 10, the library celebrates 10 years in the Houghton waterfront location.

Also during National Library Week, Geshel welcomed local business owners to the library to learn about Michigan eLibrary Resources for Small Businesses. Portage Library offers access to business databases from the Library of Michigan, located in Lansing. These databases offer useful information specially tailored for businesses, Geshel said.

Kathy Petaja, Houghton resident, who attended the Open House, said she enjoys attending community lectures and events at Portage Library. She also appreciates the view from the large window.

"I just love looking at the water," Petaja said. "The scenery is just beautiful -- and the people are so friendly."

More photos ...

Gracie displays her sign for the Photo Challenge. She says the library offers books from history to fantasy for her to read. (Photo courtesy Portage Lake District Library)

During the Open House, Anna Leppänen chats in Finnish with the Rev. Elmer Liimatta of Chassell. "It's the best place in town," says Leppänen, who often comes to the library with her daughter, Maisa.
Scott Linna of Hancock tastes some of the delicious refreshments during the Open House. "I come for the atmosphere," said Linna, who works for Eagle Radio. 

PREVIEW: Portage Lake District Library will launch their Summer Reading Program from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 18. Watch for details, coming soon ...

* Mango is a foreign language learning program available to Portage Library patrons. The Mango database was acquired in 2011 by former Portage Library Director Shawn Leche. See our 2011 article, "Portage Library offers new data bases for online learning."

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Celebrate National Get Outdoors Day with Ghost Signs of Calumet tour June 11

Can you find a historic "Ghost Sign" in this photo? Join Keweenaw National Historical Park's free Ghost Signs of Calumet tour on Saturday, June 11, and discover hidden history while celebrating National Get Outdoors Day! Great fun for all ages! (Photo courtesy Keweenaw National Historical Park)

CALUMET -- Keweenaw National Historical Park will host a free guided Ghost Signs of Calumet tour beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, as part of National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day).

Participants will learn about the past while discovering historic signs, symbols, and advertisements, often hidden in plain sight. This free GO Day event will begin at the Calumet Visitor Center, 98 Fifth St., at 2 p.m., will cover 1.5 miles and last about one hour.

GO Day, led by the USDA Forest Service (USFS) and the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), is an inclusive, nationwide effort to inspire and motivate people to get outdoors. The concept was tested in 2008 at Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona, and launched nationally on June 14 that year. Built on the success of the More Kids in the Woods program and the Get Outdoors USA! Campaign (among others), GO Day is designed to connect Americans -- especially children -- with nature and active lifestyles. It has grown every year since it launched. Last year, more than 171 official GO Day sites across the nation welcomed over 48,000 new faces to the joy and benefits of the great outdoors.

This year, all across the country, organizations will be offering opportunities for families to experience traditional and non-traditional types of outdoor activities. Primary goals for the day are reaching first-time visitors to public lands and reconnecting youth to the great outdoors.

For more information about this event or the GO Day program, please contact the park at 906-337-3168 or check the web at

Dianda Bill 5721 would restore 26 weeks of unemployment insurance

LANSING -- State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) recently introduced House Bill 5721 to restore Michigan’s unemployment benefits to 26 weeks. Unemployment benefits were slashed to 20 weeks by legislative Republicans in 2011.

"Unemployment insurance helps workers who are trying to get back on their feet and find a job to let them support themselves and their families, but 20 weeks is a pitifully short time to find or retrain for a job," said Dianda. "We need to restore unemployment benefits to 26 weeks if we want to keep our workers here in the Upper Peninsula, and elsewhere in the state, to keep Michigan’s economy growing."

U.P. families face uncertainty with Cleveland Cliffs Mine layoffs

Dianda said he is particularly worried about what will happen to U.P. families when Cleveland Cliffs Natural Resources closes their U.P. iron ore mine. Company CEO Lourenco Goncalves said in January of this year that the company’s Empire Mine would close some time this year. The Empire and Tilden Mines employ more than 1,000 workers. The company has already closed iron mines in Minnesota because the market and price for iron ore has dropped drastically. If it rebounds, the smaller Tilden Mine could stay open for maybe another 20 years. Some current miners are third- and fourth-generation miners. Retired miners have been able to stay in the U.P. because the job allowed them to save and supplement their benefits.

"A lot of hardworking Upper Peninsula families are going to be in harm’s way if the mine closes, and if these families leave the U.P., that will be devastating to our communities," said Dianda. "When families leave because their UI benefits run out quickly, it will impact more than our economy. Families leave, and that means we have fewer kids here, and that hurts our schools. Fewer young people means it’s harder to keep the businesses we have and attract new business to the U.P. Expanding unemployment insurance back to 26 weeks will give these workers more time to find or train for another job, and that can be the difference in the U.P. between a thriving community and another mining ghost town."

(Inset photo: Michigan State Rep. Scott Dianda. Photo courtesy Rep. Scott Dianda.)