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What Does Future Hold For Oak Creek Public Library?

Library officials have ambitious plans for next facility.

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."

vocal local 1 January 27, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Pam, Please address the message, not the messenger. I presented facts, deal with them. The reason we haven't as a city expanded the library is simply because the city, the state, the feds are investing in employees, not the infra-structure. I didn't criticise locat government unless one considers the truth criticism.
Pam Aiken January 27, 2012 at 02:08 AM
The messenger appears to be some sort of wing-nut who has been told by the comment moderator at least once to reign in the name-calling and hostility or be banned. If you are so fervent in your beliefs, why not claim them? It's hard to take your criticisms as truth based on your repeated and constant drum-beating against whomever happens to be in office. If you think the way to improve our library is to fire employees and get people to "volunteer" our way to more computers, more books, more programming, and more square footage, you are more delusional than you appear to be. You cannot run a library with volunteers. A library is not a business in a conventional sense. You are comparing apples to oranges. My apologies to everyone for feeding the troll.
Cilantro65 January 27, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I love this idea!! "A library that will be the center point for learning and a gathering site for community interaction in the city of Oak Creek." How about designing a 'B&N style library?' Appealing, relaxing, inviting, test kitchen? How about a coffee shop inside? May I add that placing the library at the old Delphi sitet is a no brainer. I would think that the city would be able to utilize the old building and/or land its on to accommodate the growing needs of the OCHS. Just a thought.
Laurel Johnson January 28, 2012 at 02:55 PM
"In the interium resident volunteers can get involved by donating time shelving books, and running circulation and reference." Thanks for the laugh, vocal- this is the funniest thing I have read all week. I'm curious if you were asked to volunteer if you would step up to the plate. I doubt it.
Connie Ploch February 01, 2012 at 08:06 PM
I agree the library needs to be updated, but a test kitchen and stage? Really? We have at least 4 stages now between OCHS, and the two new middle schools. What's wrong with using those more? Last I checked, food (from a test kitchen) and reading materials and/or computers do not mix well. In this economy let's worry about updating the necessary components of the library, along with perhaps charging a small fee (rather than free) for using their meeting room! @ Vocal - the OCCC has been and continues to be self-supporting and it does NOT cost the taxpayers any money to fund it. It owns the land it's built on and it continues to be a shining star of the city. Why move it and cost them money and endless hours of more fundraising when it's not necessary? Why outst weddings already planned and put business owners in a jam to find a place to reschedule?

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