Some of you may have read the recent Chronotype article about our last Common Council meeting discussing the Rice Lake Library and its funding. As we have talked with community members and patrons, we have realized that many of you don’t know where our funding comes from.
In Wisconsin, public libraries are funded primarily by their municipality, which usually owns the library building as well. Approximately 2/3 of our operations revenues come directly from the City of Rice Lake and are placed under the control of the Library Board of Trustees (a governmental body ruled by state statute that includes 5 citizen members, 1 rural representative, a school representative and a Council representative.) The other large source of revenues comes from Barron and other surrounding counties as payment for use of our library by their citizens who do not have a library of their own. These funds are a reimbursement for services and are based on the expenditures by the library in the last full calendar year.
A very small amount of funding comes from late fines and fees at the library such as renting the meeting room, or sending a fax. And another small sliver comes from donations which can vary widely year to year.
When we look at a large capital project like a new building, our only funding comes from the municipality we serve and private donations and grants. Those other counties are very unlikely to contribute to such a project because the final product will be owned by the City of Rice Lake.
Our current building is 14,500 square feet on three floors. As many of our long time residents know, it was originally a grocery store and was renovated to become a library almost 40 years ago. That was before the RLPL had a single computer! At that time, they expected the building to last 20 years. We’ve thoroughly outgrown the building and the way libraries are used has changed dramatically in that 40 years.
Our goals now are modest. We want to see an efficient layout so that the staff can see all corners of the building to meet both safety and service concerns. We want a technology ready building so that users with laptops and equipment can access the information they need. We want energy efficiency, including daylighting and a comfortable climate within the building. And we want the space to be warm and inviting and capable of serving all who want to enter instead of having to find offsite space for events because of fire codes.
These are not marble staircases, Cadillacs, or Taj Mahals. It is the smart way to spend taxpayer money–with an eye to the future and long term operations included in the analysis of cost.
The Library Board of Trustees is grateful for the $1 million appropriation from City Council for the building project. We wish it was enough to give our community what it deserves from the library, but we hope we can get there anyway with your help.