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By Dion Mindykowski, Tahquamenon Area Library Director

Here’s a story that not many people know. In September of 2010 after I interviewed for the director position at the Tahquamenon Area Library, I went to check out a local trail, specifically the loop at Hamilton Lake.   I knew it was a short loop, so I wasn’t too concerned about planning ahead. I had a half a bottle of water and a cell phone with no service.

Curiosity and a sense of adventure got the best of me, however, and I explored the side trail that heads uphill to the Zellar Meadow trails.  Anyone that’s been back there knows once you leave Hamilton Lake, the trails aren’t marked, there’s a lot of intersecting two tracks, and even the return to the marked trails isn’t very visible depending on which direction you’re heading from.  Needless to say, I got turned around and a little lost.  After a couple hours of walking in circles, backtracking and even a little bushwhacking, I emerged on M-123 thirsty, overheated, and covered in burrs.

Since then, I’ve visited those trails so much, there is almost no chance of getting lost out there.  Chances are, however, that if you see me out enjoying nature, I’ll be wearing a pack, probably weighted with a steel plate for additional fitness, but also with a headlamp, a first aid kit, an emergency blanket, a compass, a lighter, some food and water, and a few additional survival tools.

Even if I’m walking around the village before work, I’ll have that pack and tools with me. Not because I’m afraid I’ll get lost walking around Parmalee Street, but instead it is so that I’m prepared in case curiosity and a sense of adventure get the best of me, and I unexpectedly end up in a new and exciting place where I could end up lost, or injured, or needing to assist someone else.

For 98% of my walks, the extra precautions are unnecessary, but for the other 2% those items have been worth way more than the inconvenience of the extra weight and the time it takes to stock and inventory them. This is especially true for the times I have been able to help others avoid hypothermia or frost bite.

So, you might be wondering why I’m talking about walking around the village with survival gear for a library column. It is because as we reopen after this extended shutdown, I will be utilizing similar preparedness philosophies in how we operate.  Most notably there will be procedures in place to ensure social distancing.  Though we are still finalizing reopening plans, this will include the use of protective equipment at the circulation desk, asking library users, along with staff to wear masks, delaying the start of our regular programming, and making some temporary changes to our public computer setup and usage.  Is this because we’re afraid that everyone in the library is going to catch Covid-19?  Not at all. It’s because we love our community and library patrons and if we can save one life, or even prevent one person from suffering through weeks of shortness of breath and high fever, the short-term change to how we provide library service will be worth it. I would rather be the older and wiser me, hauling around excess gear, just in case, and helping people out along the way, than the younger and reckless me that ends up walking in circles at Zellar Meadow.

During this time we do appreciate your patience as we implement these preparedness steps. Once we reopen, we will still be offering the same great library services, just in a slightly different way.