Release Date: April 9, 2011

Brown County Central Library update plans begin with education

The Post-Crescent

Community education that begins with a successful marketing plan is the route the Brown County Library Board has chosen in its efforts to get the Central Library renovated.

The board, left with the task of finding a way to either reduce the $23 million price tag on the project or coming up with funds that will convince the County Board to bond for some of it, began its education offensive Friday with the formation of a task force.

Headed by Kathy Pletcher, associate provost for Information Services at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the task force will include representatives from Downtown Green Bay Inc., Friends of the Library and library officials.

The cost will not be the initial focus.

"We need to define what the definition of a great library is and take the approach that this place is special," said Jeff Mirkes, executive director of Downtown Green Bay Inc. "A strong healthy downtown has a successful library and it speaks to the character of the community."

The County Board's Education & Recreation committee flinched at the thought of a $23 million renovation but was told last week that immediate repairs would cost $14.75 million and a gradual renovation phased in over eight years would cost almost $30 million.

Dave Sachs, vice president of technical services for the Boldt Co. in Appleton, told the dozen people who attended the organizational meeting that the $23 million cost would give the county a quality library without frills and extras.

"If you wait until 2014, the price is going to go up," Sachs said.

According to an engineering study, the 40-year-old Central Library needs many repairs, including an air conditioning system, elevators and other parts of its infrastructure.

Supervisor Tony Theisen, a member of the Library Board, said the task force's job is to convince both the public and elected officials that the most cost-effective approach is a complete renovation now instead of patchwork repairs.

The Central Library attracts almost 1 million visitors per year, more than the number of visitors to the Lambeau Field Atrium, but the need for bonding comes at a time when the County Board faces a major budget crisis.

"We have a real need and a great product," said Library Director Lynn Stainbrook. "We just need to know how to sell it (to the public).

Pletcher said a public relations campaign likely will be the first undertaking for the task force.