Oak Creek — When the library moves to Drexel Town Square in 2015, it will triple in size — but while public dollars are paying for the building, public dollars won't be paying for the furniture, books and other items that will fill all that added space.
That's where the newly created Oak Creek Public Library Foundation and its goal of raising $2.5 million in private donations comes in. The foundation differs from the Friends of the Oak Creek Public Library in that its sole purpose is raising money for the library.
"If we could raise $2.5 million, we could have a comfortable library without being extravagant," Library Director Jill Lininger, who serves on the foundation board, said.
Created this fall, the foundation already has received a $25,000 donation from the Oak Creek Lions Club and several donations of more than $1,000 from other donors.
The problem isn't just that there will be so much more space to fill; it's partly that the existing furniture needs replacement regardless of a move, Lininger said.
When she was hired as library director in 2011, she tried moving her desk closer to a data port.
It snapped in half.
That wasn't the only incident of furniture falling apart, she said, recalling tables broken while being moved. Much of the furniture is as old as the library, which turned 40 in 2012.
Most won't survive the move to the new library, Lininger predicted.
Even the bookshelves will be hard to move, as they are connected to the floor, she pointed out.
Showing its age
The foundation hopes to pay for new furniture, books and computers. The library has only nine computers connected to the Internet today — there simply aren't enough power outlets for more.
Lininger hopes to have more than 50 desktops and laptops by the end of the fundraising campaign.
As it stands, the Oak Creek library is unable to meet any Wisconsin State Library standards for collection size, technology requirements, building size or staff size.
The fundraising, according to Diane Plantenberg, the foundation's campaign director, is in its silent phase, but in spring, the public will be invited to give input.
For Plantenberg, the silent phase means asking those with close ties to the library for a donation. She added, "It's a time when people think about what they can do for others and how they can help."
When the foundation begins asking the general public for donations, Plantenberg said, the library will host sessions showcasing the library's contribution to the community.
Last year, the library provided 173 programs that were used by 4,000 participants. Half of Oak Creek's populace has a library card, and nearly 1,000 people visit the library each week.
Preparing for the future
Lininger sees a library's role as "an informal learning common."
She wants the library to hold more informal learning sessions and to be a place where people can meet and learn together.
Although she has a vision of the library's role, she said she realizes it is impossible to know exactly what will happen in 20 years or more. There is a lot of flexibility built into the designs for the new building, she said, to help the library adapt to changing circumstances.
As for the foundation, it will stay in operation after its initial fundraising campaign. Plantenberg said it may set up an endowment or may be used for other fundraising efforts.
CONTACT: Diane Plantenberg, campaign director for the Oak Creek Public Library Foundation
PHONE: (414) 559-1588
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