The Racine Public Library needs renovation and expansion. It’s not a result of being “bitten by the building bug,” as the June 15 Journal Times editorial stated.
Space needs can be seen when story time has to accommodate too many children in its designated area. It can be seen when one of the many popular adult programs requires chairs to be dragged into a second-floor patron space, causing others to complain of the noise. It can be seen by the long waiting lists for computer training because its current space can only accommodate seven patrons at a time. And it can be seen by the constant back and forth of makerspace materials to areas that have to serve multiple uses.
Expansion to a partial third floor is also necessary. There is no current space on either the first or second floor to accommodate all the requests for meeting spaces. A third floor can accommodate meetings spaces of four to 250. These spaces could also be available for business and community needs.
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How else could the library get extra space? The possibility of a second site library was rejected in 2014 by a steering committee representing municipalities east of I-94. The city’s reduced budget has caused difficult staffing and operational decisions. No library in the state has such a large patron population with only one facility. But, with reconfiguration and some additional space on the third floor, it can be done.
The June 15 editorial questioned the library’s core function and what its critical needs are. The demands of 21st century library patrons require transforming to broader educational goals, from being collection-centered to user-centered areas for learning, creativity and community in the digital age.
In order to better serve our citizens, significant changes to the existing building are required. In anticipation of a potential campaign, the Racine Public Library Foundation is planning to conduct a feasibility study to determine the potential for a successful capital campaign.
The health of a community is seen in the health of its institutions. The library requires a transfusion to maintain its health.
Sandy Riekoff is a Racine Public Library trustee.