For such a little place, the Addison Township Public Library sure has a lot going on these days.
First, it celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Now, it’s director has been honored by her peers from across the state.
Last week, Director Jaema Berman received the Patron Services Award during the 2018 Loleta Fyan Small/Rural Libraries Conference held at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme.
“This is a really big accolade for me,” she said. “I have not won an award on this level before. It was a huge honor. Very humbling and exciting for me.”
The award recognizes a librarian from a small or rural library who has made significant contributions to and a positive impact on library service to patrons through outstanding programs or services.
Being the humble person that she is, Berman, who’s served as director since 2011, saw the award as a reflection of the library and community as a whole, not just her.
“I feel so proud that our work here at the library was recognized,” she said. “It highlights all the effort that our staff puts in every day for our community.”
Assistant Library Director Lyn Henderson spearheaded the effort to nominate Berman for this award.
“It was wonderful. I am so happy for her,” she said. “To have a good library, you need a good leader and we have one.”
Henderson described Berman as kind, cheerful, “a real people person” and “someone who is genuinely happy to come to work.”
“The staff just loves her,” said James Baldiga, president of the library board.
Under Berman’s direction, Henderson said the library has “more community outreach (now) than we ever had before.”
“We had never communicated much with the community, but now, we have a quarterly newsletter that she started a couple years ago,” she said. “We have a Facebook page. We have a website. We have a social media presence that was never there before.”
In addition to that, the library continually organizes and hosts programs that allow and encourage Addison residents to share their talents, passions, special knowledge, hobbies and skills with others. Past programs have revolved around wood sculpting, beer tasting, arts and crafts and chocolate tasting.
Berman said the programs are all “organic” in that they come from folks that live in the community.
“I try to dig into that creative spirit that we have here. These programs are coming from our patrons, so they resonate with our community,” she said. “There’s a lot of sharing of passions and creativity here, which, I think, makes it a really special place to be, a really exciting place to be. A fun place.”
“If you look at the types of programs she’s instituted, she tries to appeal to the community,” Baldiga said. “She takes her cues from the community.”
One of those programs, the Genealogical Society of Addison Township, has made Berman “extremely proud.” It’s based at the library and has been meeting there monthly since 2012. Meetings are at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday.
“That has really caught on in this community,” she said.
Henderson noted Berman expanded the library’s summer reading program, which is now a huge hit.
“It used to be just for children,” she said. “Now, it’s for all age groups.”
Last year’s summer reading program had 277 children, teens and adults participate, which is 64 percent more than in 2016.
Nominating Berman for the Patron Services Award was a true collaborative effort that involved input and participation from the library staff, the library board, the Friends of the Addison Township Public Library and township Supervisor Bruce Pearson.
“Instead of taking a village, this took a township. It took everybody to pull it together,” Henderson said. “Nobody questioned why we were doing it. We just knew she deserved it. She’s just the most deserving person I know.”
“I knew once we gave (the award selection committee) all the information, they couldn’t pick anybody else,” Henderson noted.
Baldiga was happy to be involved in the effort.
“To be able to honor her amongst her (peers) was an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up,” he said.
“She goes above and beyond all the time,” Baldiga continued. “She’s always looking for the next thing . . . She’s got boundless energy. She’s always looking for ways to innovate.”
The December 2017 letter from the library board to the award selection committee touted Berman’s accomplishments.
“(She) has effectively managed available program funds and supplemented them by actively soliciting donations from foundations, local business(es) and patrons to support the library and expand on its programs . . . The additional and unique programs that she has incorporated are only part of her great contribution to Addison Township, but they are a major factor in driving the increased interest (in) and use of our library,” the letter stated.
“Her efforts in collecting donations have also provided a major boost for our new building fund which has been able to increase by $127,000 over the past seven years,” the library board noted.
“I was just so humbled and so inspired by everything that (Henderson) and everybody else here at the library and in our community did to help make this award happen,” Berman said.
According to Henderson, it was difficult to keep the award a surprise until it was presented to Berman on May 1.
“That was the hardest thing because in a small community, secrets are not kept very well,” she said. “Amazingly, not one person told her. She was honestly surprised. I could tell when we were there.”
Berman confirmed that. “I was completely and utterly surprised,” she said.
In the end, this award is just one more example of why Berman can’t imagine being any place else.
“Addison Township is just such a terrific community to work in,” she said. “I’m really proud of the fact that our community has such a contagious can-do spirit.”