Library board eyes expansion
Expects to pay for it through donations and grants
By Eileen Persike
For the past couple of years, the Rhinelander District Library Board of Trustees has been exploring the idea of expanding and upgrading its facilities. The library currently serves a population of over 42,000 and served more than 105,000 patrons last year in a 15,000 square foot building that was last upgraded before the internet became a household word. The cornerstone of the existing library was laid in 1903 with a grant from Andrew Carnegie. During a special meeting of the Building Committee Tuesday, members met to discuss how to best roll out the proposal to the community.
Board president Jan Baer said she felt it was important at this time for the community to simply know the status of the expansion project, “to let people know we are still in the planning process, basically,” she said.
Vice President and committee member Vicki Houston said she thought the board was moving too slowly regarding public information.
“We need to give enough information so people get an accurate idea of what we are doing,” Houston said. “We are very concerned that there is speculation and rumor that’s totally off base from what we are doing.”
What the Library board is doing is proposing a 12,000 square foot expansion toward the east, where the library parking lot and library-owned property on the corner of Rives and Pelham Streets are today.
“There will be a meeting room that can be accessed after hours, which can be subdivided – something we don’t have today,” Library Director Virginia Roberts said. “We’ll have an improved Children’s area with windows and outdoor classroom space, more room for Young Adult and Technology departments, bathrooms on both floors and other improvements.”
A fundraising advisory committee has been looking at the feasibility of fundraising the entire cost of the addition. Taken from a project brochure, “Estimated cost for the construction, energy improvements and technology enhancements is $8 million. Built into that is $1 million to be used for expected increased operating expenses for the first five years following the expansion, designed to proactively ease the tax burden for the city and the four townships. It is the building committee’s intention to fund the project without tax dollars and instead to raise the money needed through donation and grants.”
Architectural Consultant Chris Winter agreed with Houston about getting more information out to the public. He also said it is important to talk about the proposed addition.
“When we hired the architects, we hired them because they are nationally renowned, they are library experts, and they are knowledgeable about Carnegie renovations and remodeling. We need to get that out there every chance we get. It lends credibility to the project, that we have made the right choice.”
According to information released Wednesday by the building committee, the architectural firm of Holzheimer Bolek & Meehan (HBM) was selected for the project. HBM Architects are a nationally focused firm with offices in Ohio and Colorado. Following a needs assessment, the building committee has spent the last two years with HBM developing the design.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Winter reiterated his concern that the public be given information.
“We’ve gotten in the role of playing gatekeeper, keeping the press at bay,” he said. “But we’re at the stage now where we need to lay a few cards on the table, let a few horses out of the barn.”
In addition to the press release, the building committee agreed to distribute to the public and the media a draft version of a brochure outlining the need for the expansion, history of the library, floor plans, estimated cost and states the building committee’s intention to fund the expansion without tax dollars.
There is more information available at rhinelanderlibrary.org.