By Eileen Persike
One of the busiest public community buildings in Rhinelander was constructed in 1903, with grant money from Andrew Carnegie. An addition was built in the mid 1980’s and today that building, which sees more than 500 people walk through its doors daily, is bursting at the seams. That building is the Rhinelander District Library.
Its Board of Trustees is working toward a $7 million 27,000 square foot expansion and redesign, planned for sometime in the future. Their work is just getting started.
During a meeting of the building committee, Library Director Virginia Roberts reminded those in attendance that the current space is woefully inadequate.
“There is a need for more space for meetings, library programs, computers, materials, and work space,” Roberts said. Additionally, she said many of the library’s collections are in storage or are on unreachable shelves, the furnaces are dying and there aren’t enough parking spaces. “It’s not a proper library at this point, and the addition makes it so. We’re a book warehouse with a really great staff. So we can find things for people and we do a wonderful job but that’s where we’re at and it’s frustrating.”
A concept drawing of the library expansion was released last summer. And while the Board of Trustees intends to pay for the library expansion with grants and donations, there was some sticker shock among area residents. Cindy Skinner, representing the Town of Pine Lake at the meeting, questioned whether the library expansion needs to go that far.
“It’s not just me, it’s the whole town board and the people I have talked to,” Skinner explained. “Maybe it’s over expansion for the size of our area. To me it looks like a library that belongs in a big city.”
“We’ve been up and down those questions and concerns,” President Jan Baer responded. “I feel that once the community is educated about what is needed here – and it isn’t a matter of what we would like to do, it’s what we need to do to service the community.”
Educating the community about how libraries have changed over the years, would be valuable, according to one of the architects working on the design. For example, “book boxes” are what libraries were in the 1980s.
“Now there’s been an explosion of programs that require not only space for materials but a space for people,” Peter Bolek said. “And so this whole expansion is not out of the realm that is needed for a community of this size. What we are adding is people space.”
The addition can be dissected and broken down into understandable pieces, Bolek added, saying “this is what we are doing and this is why it is needed. And these are valid reasons.”
Gordon Corrus with the construction company that will oversee the work said the redesigned and expanded library will cost no more to run than it does today, with increased building efficiencies.
The next step in the project is to move onto the third phase, design development. The building committee requested a proposal from the architects for the design phase. Following that, an updated project cost estimate can be provided. Fundraising options, including whether to hire a professional fundraiser and making plans for community education are also discussion topics for the near future.
DID YOU KNOW….
2015 Rhinelander District Library stats
• 109,203 total patron visits—six days a week
• 625 programs with over 16,000 participants
• 12,000+ informational questions answered
• 4,780 items delivered by RDL’s outreach –Books on the Go to individual patrons in personal residences, nursing homes and assisted living facilities
• 184,716 materials borrowed from the library collection of 96,443 items
• Public computers were used 14,043 times in the library. Over 81,093 people used the wireless internet provided at RDL and in Newbold Township