Library building committee discusses challenges
Wish list for planned addition may need a trim
By Eileen Persike
Expansion plans continue for the Rhinelander District Library, although the building committee learned last week that those plans may need downsizing. The committee and library board members met September 25 to discuss the results of a developmental study conducted by the fundraising firm American City Bureau.
The summary report, which interviewed 18 community leaders and groups, found that 94 percent of participants rated the image of the Rhinelander District Library (RDL) as “very good to good” and viewed the library as a community asset. Strengths and challenges were identified; the positives being program offerings, circulation, collections and holdings, location and Carnegie heritage. More concerning were the challenges.
“The biggest challenge is the second one, the public perception that libraries are becoming irrelevant,” stated RDL board president Jan Baer. “They really are not.”
Library Director Virginia Roberts agreed and reminded the assembly that the library has always been the “People’s University,” open to everyone.
“After school we are inundated with middle and high schoolers– they will be flopping all over our chairs and our computers and doing their homework. A lot of them are giggling but they are still doing their homework and they will be here until we close,” Roberts said. “Students from Nicolet will be coming in and getting supplemental texts, adults are coming in getting information, getting things they just want to read, do, see, just hang out, read the paper.”
American City Bureau’s conclusion stated that “the ability to raise $8 million through philanthropy is doubtful, but planning for future expansion should proceed, with professional management of the capital campaign necessary.”
Recommendations include downsizing or phasing the project and “prioritizing major components in terms of the greatest community benefit.”
Also in attendance at Friday’s meeting were members of the Rhinelander District Library Foundation. Baer is looking for input from the group on just how to “downsize plans and reduce their dreams a bit.”
The Rhinelander District Library opened its doors in 1898 in one room of the Merchants State Bank. Within four years the space was too small, so with land donated by Brown Brothers Lumber and a grant from Andrew Carnegie, the current library was built in 1903. Its only addition was in 1984.