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Lake Geneva Library officially out of space



LIBRARY KEEPS GETTING BUSIER -- Despite space problems and other concerns, the Lake Geneva Library keeps going strong. With record numbers of people visiting the library and checking out materials, leaders and employees aren't halting their efforts to bring in additional patrons. September is library card sign up month and dozens of people sign up for new library cards each month. Some of the services the library provides use of computers, e-books, WiFi, a magnifier and entertaining programs. Public Services Coordinator Alisha Benson said the programs at the library often are filled to capacity. "They are good, quality programming that appeals to the local community and to people looking for free entertainment," Benson said. "It's just another service to take advantage of." The Friends of the Lake Geneva Public Library fund much of the special programs.
September 08, 2010 | 08:52 AM
Last Thursday was a busy and noisy day at the Lake Geneva Public Library.

Not only was the facility bustling with patrons sifting through the collection and checking out books and DVDs, but at the same time, library workers and volunteers pulled hundreds of books off several shelves in order to make space for a brand-new shelving unit. Then, they restocked the shelves.

While the pounding and drilling to install the additional shelving units may have been a disruption for the day, there's more to it for leaders of the library.

The new shelving units, which are located immediately on the left after walking into the facility through the main entrance, mark the last remaining open space in the library.

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With continued requirements from Walworth County to add and improve the collection, that spells trouble for those in charge of the facility. In order to retain its funding from the county, the library must meet certain criteria for its 18,000 person service area.

"We have been having meetings about the collection," Library Public Services coordinator Alisha Benson said. "The issue that comes up is that we want and need to meet the standards, but we are also running out of space. We need 1,000 more DVDs, but where do you put that?"

There are no simple answers.

"A couple years ago, we went through a weeding process," Library Director Andrea Peterson said. "A lot of the collection was very dated, especially the adult nonfiction. Now the collection is nice and clean. It does increase circulation and check out because the browsing is better."

Removal of the older items, opens up space for new items.

Collections of DVDs and children and young adult items are expanding. DVDs make up about a third of the library's circulation as nonprint materials become more popular. DVD collections must meet standards and in order to do that, the collection needs to increase.

"We select classic television programs and Academy Award winning films," Benson said.

"We go from certain lists," Peterson said. "Everything we purchase has been an award winner in certain categories. We like to purchase DVDs that have a timeless quality to them that won't fade in popularity."

To fulfill the requirements, along with adding shelving for large print materials, more shelving was added last week for the DVD collection.

With the space filling up quickly, Peterson had no answer to the problem. But, there are some possibilities.

The library has more than $100,000 in its impact fee account. Those were monies collected during the past several years from developers. Based on state statutes, the money can be used for specific purposes, including building an addition.

Peterson said that money won't help the space problems long term. A 2003 library expansion plan would have doubled the size of the current facility and cost an estimated $6 million. Fundraising for the project started in the summer of 2004, but never fully took shape.

"That proposal is inactive and the board is in the process of beginning to pursue other options," Peterson said.

Those options could include the $125,000 in impact fees, some of which must be spent within a specific timeframe according to state statutes.

The library's current budget is $680,000 per year.

"We are definitely challenged," Peterson said. "Every library has the same issues — building, staff and service issues. Everyone has their own set of circumstances."

Peterson said the facility itself is "the responsibility of the city" and any expansion would likely require private donations. There also are other concerns with possible expansion.

"I think we would need the support of the community and city," she said. "We have certain limitations and people have strong feelings about how this property could and should be modified. We always have the parking issue, too."

The Lake Geneva Public Library was built in 1954, 60 years after Mary Sturges deeded the property to the city for a library. The building was expanded in 1963 and 1970.

In 2003, the city of Lake Geneva funded an architectural study to improve the city library.

The new building plan was drawn up by Frye Gillan Molinaro Architects Ltd., of Chicago, an architectural firm that specializes in designing libraries. The firm, which also created the Sun Prairie Public Library, worked closely with library staff to design a new building plan.

The final drawings, which the Library Board approved at the time, expanded the now 16,000-square-foot facility to encompass 31,000 square feet. The building's new exterior would have replicated the original prairie style set forth by designer James Dresser, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. The main entrance would remain untouched.

The primary addition would be on the east and south sides of the library. A smaller addition was proposed for the west side. One main improvement on the interior would have been that the adult fiction section would encompass one level, rather than being split between two levels as it is now.

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