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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Combining Hubs of Knowledge
Menominee Tribal, College Libraries Merge
by Lee Pulaski - The Shawano Leader
credits: photos by Lee Pulaski
There is now one hub of knowledge in Keshena following the merger of the Menominee Public Library with the College of Menominee Nation library.

The college, the Menominee Tribal Legislature and the Menominee County Board of Supervisors celebrated the merger Friday with an open house and discussion of what is to come in the three-story, 19,000-square-foot S. Verna Fowler Library. More than 100 people were in attendance

"The Menominee Public Library is in new surroundings, but it is still your public library," Library Director Maria Escalante said. "I hope that you'll come here often."

Menominee County Supervisor Tony Waupochick understands the importance of libraries, being the husband and father of librarians. He commented that the merger will not diminish literacy services to the reservation in any way.

"Sharing obligations and responsibilities lightens the load for all and opens new opportunities," Waupochick said. "The county and the tribe have worked together for many years to assure public library services are available to people who live here. Now, we welcome the college as a new partner in providing this service."

Library services are in great need on the reservation. Verna Fowler, CMN president, cited statistics that show 34 percent of American Indians read at a fifth-grade level or below.

"That is one-third of the population who may not be able to access or understand medical information readily available on the Internet about the chronic diseases that plague our community and preventive measures and services that could help them," Fowler said. "That is one-third of our community who may not be able to successfully do banking transactions online, research their tribe's constitution and other foundational documents or research records about their own family history."

Fowler credited Escalante as the driving force at the college behind the merger. A director for 16 years, she has been a major player in helping to improve literacy in the college and community, Fowler said.

"This merger will most likely double her workload, and she has not said one word to me about a salary increase," Fowler said, drawing laughter from those in attendance.

Escalante said the merger has created a "significant" historical collection for the community, which can be viewed during library hours in a special collections wing in the basement.

The Children's Department is also located in the basement. Escalante plans to have many activities for children to promote early and continuing literacy.

The newly merged library this spring will sponsor a visit by New York Times bestselling author Jeanette Wells. The library will give away copies of her memoir, "The Glass Castle," on Jan. 24 and will hold book discussions in February and March prior to her March 12 appearance at the Menominee Casino Resort.

Tribal Chairman Craig Corn said the merger was a win-win situation. The services previously available at the tribal library will continue to be provided, Corn said, and programs should be expanded with the help of the college's resources.

"The decision to merge the Menominee Public Library with the college academic library was considered at great length and very carefully by our tribal Legislature," Corn said.

Responding to criticism that the merger moved library services out of walking distance for some Keshena residents, the college established a partnership with Menominee Transit Authority, which will allow library patrons to take the bus for free by showing their library card.

The tribe and the county will continue to provide financial assistance to the public library functions, he added.

The Fowler Library opened in 2008 and was named after the college's founding president last year. Prior to the new library being built, college library services were contained in one room in the basement of Shirley Daly Hall.

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