“Reinventing the Library” the cover story for the March 17th, 2010 issue of The Shepherd Express by Lisa Kaiser featured Villard Square as part of the future model for public libraries in Milwaukee. The NWSCDC is the Co-Developer of this exciting mixed-use real estate project along with Gorman Company.
The link to the full Shepherd Express article is here.
An excerpt from The Shepherd Express featuring Villard Square follows below.
The Library of the Future
In addition to the library’s traditional assets and services, the system is undergoing a technological revolution that will ensure its relevancy in the coming century. Currently, users are researching the online catalog, placing books on hold online, and even downloading eBooks and multimedia materials directly onto their own computers or iPods via the OverDrive program, without setting foot in a neighborhood library.
Mike Koszalka said that the West Allis Public Library’s investment in radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanners has helped it to become more efficient and stave off the budget problems, layoffs and furloughs that MPL is facing. The scanners—installed thanks to a $1.3 million donation from late West Allis resident Irv Terchak—allows users to pick up materials they’ve put on hold, check out their own items and pay fines “within a minute,” Koszalka said. Now, 72% of library patrons use the self-service checkouts. MPL is in the process of installing RFID in all of its libraries.
MPL is also changing physically to use its resources wisely. The Central Library’s annex will soon be the site of a 30,000-square-foot green roof, an addition that will help to reduce the amount of energy used in the building. Also in the works is the new Villard Avenue Library, to be housed in a mixed-use building being developed by Gorman & Co. Technically, the new library will be a condo unit on the first floor of a building that includes residential condos. The arrangement will lower operating costs for the library, since they’ll be shared with other tenants, and further integrate the library into the community. Kiely said that the city’s Redevelopment Authority will purchase the unit and the library will lease it from the agency for seven years. That will make the development eligible for new market tax credits, “and bring some funding to the project and save the city some money,” Kiely said.
That said, the public libraries always need the support of the community. While municipal budgets provide operating revenue, the programs, classes and many materials typically come from private foundations and “friends” groups. Kiely said the support of the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library has been incredibly generous and has allowed the library to continue providing a high level of service even during budget cutbacks. She urged residents to join the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library—a $40 annual membership fee that supports the library’s collection. The suburban libraries also have friends groups that provide vital private support to their public systems.
“I think people often forget or don’t even think about what communities would be like without public libraries,” Kiely said.