Although no one knows where a new will ultimately be located, library officials are thinking a lot about what it will entail.
And they are thinking big.
Their vision includes more meeting rooms. Rooms outfitted with AV equipment for broadcasting events on local television. A 150-seat theater for programs like recitals, seminars and productions. A "test kitchen" to learn different life skills. An area to display Oak Creek's agricultural and commercial history.
Or as their official vision statement says, "A library that will be the center point for learning and a gathering site for community interaction in the city of Oak Creek."
The Oak Creek Library Board favors constructing that building at the former Delphi site as part of the "town center" proposed for that area - a walkable Main Street-type area featuring a mix of retail, housing, recreation, restaurants and offices.
Library Board President Dennis Havey said putting a new library there would help both Delphi businesses and the library attract customers.
"We feel there are some very good reasons for putting it at the Delphi location," Havey said.
Relocating to Delphi means moving away from , but Library Director Jill Lininger said high school students don't account for a high percentage of patrons. The library sees some after-school traffic, but as for circulation of materials, students make up the smallest population of the library's users, she said.
The scope of a new building is still up in the air. Library officials want a building in the 60,000-square-foot range, but there's been talk of downsizing the building to save money.
More discussions about the specifics of a new library - such as the size, design and cost - will come after a location is picked. The Oak Creek Common Council will decide whether to move the library to the former Delphi site at Drexel and Howell avenues or keep it at its current location near the corner of Puetz Road and Howell Avenue.
That decision , at the earliest.
Need is obvious
But you won't find much disagreement that something needs to be done with the library.
The current facility was constructed in 1972 when Oak Creek's population was around 15,000. , the city's population is nearing 35,000 and officials say the community has long outgrown the 14,000-square-foot building.
"The current library facility is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of our community," the Library Board wrote in a memo. "In these troubling economic times, it is imperative that the library be able to provide citizens with computers, books, DVDs, magazines, and programming that they might otherwise be unable to afford. Because of our space limitations we are unable to meet any of the Wisconsin State Library Standards for collection size, technology requirements, building size, or staffing levels.
"Our inability to meet these standards at even the most basic levels means our community lacks a vibrant public library and the resources that go with it."
Lininger said in a bad economy, more people often go to libraries for recreation-type activities—to check out DVDs and magazines and use public computers, for instance. While circulation of print materials has increased slightly, use of electronic databases has skyrocketed, Lininger said.
The library now has only nine computers. Ideally, a library has one computer for every thousand residents, Lininger said, meaning Oak Creek should have about 35 computers.
The state of the current library might explain why, when asked by the council to weigh in on the location debate, Lininger said she just wants a new library, period.
"I would just like to see a new building," Lininger said. "Not speaking as a library director, speaking as a citizen of Oak Creek, I just would like to see a new building."
Funding the project
Havey said the board will undertake a capital fundraising program to make the new building a public-private partnership. The board wants to hire a consultant who will help with a feasibility study, as well as someone to coordinate a large fundraising campaign. The Friends of the Oak Creek Library will attempt to gain nonprofit status so that donations are tax deductible.
A lot of work is ahead of the library and Library Board. In other libraries recently opened in Wisconsin, between $4 million and $5 million was raised in a three- to four-year timespan, Havey said.
"We're starting at the bottom of the hill here," Havey told the council last week.
Havey said the board and its hired consultant will look particularly at businesses and corporations with the ability to make large contributions, which he called one of the biggest keys to success.
Aldermen were supportive of the Library Board's efforts. Alderman Mike Toman, who is also a member of the Library Board, noted that showed residents are concerned about how much a new library would cost. Help from residents and businesses could ease those worries.
"I do believe strongly that public/private partnerships should be a part of this," Toman said.
A public/private partnership could work any number of ways. At one new library, the municipality paid for the exterior work and private donations funded the furnishings inside, Havey said. In another, a large benefactor accounted for half of the money and the rest came through other fundraising efforts.
Havey and others believe bringing in outside contributions will result in a better finished product.
"When it's done, one of the things brought out is that the new facility has greater support, greater participation than was originally anticipated," he said. "It takes a lot to get to that new building, but once it's there, the community is going to be involved."