Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

New shelves, new paint, new fears?

by Steve Targo

March 10, 2011

Genoa City — The three women operating the village’s Public Library are in another state of transition. They seem to be in high spirits, finishing each other’s sentences when discussing the commotion that’s taking place.

They’re in the process of reorganizing the library.

They’re adding shelves, painting the walls and moving around various sections which together comprise 21,000 books, periodicals, audiobooks, movies and compact discs.

“It needed cleaning up and updating,” Library Director Lisa Ahler said March 2 while seated at a table near the main entrance. That’s the largest section of the library, the 2002 addition to what used to be the village’s post office.

Now, it’s a room with masking tape on the floor to designate where some of the new shelving units will be placed.

Some of the existing shelves are bare, while in the old section, two tables are filled with stacks of hardcover volumes. Some of the walls they’ve already painted taupe — or “burnt toast” as Ahler and Children’s Librarian Julee Johnson pointed out. Some of them still have the same white primer coat painted on them almost eight years ago.

“We’re trying to make a cozy atmosphere,” Ahler said.

This is occurring almost one year since Brenda Youra died. Youra, who worked at the Genoa City Public Library for 17 years, died while she was library director. According to the current library staff, Youra was well-liked and still missed.

“Last year was a dark year because of Brenda,” Ahler said.

Ahler, who began working at the library on a temporary basis in 1999 and became a “regular” employee in 2005, said she stepped into the position because she loves working for the public. She also said it was an obvious progression for her.

“I live in the village,” she said. “I know everybody in the village and everybody loves a familiar face.”

But Ahler, Johnson and Circulation Clerk Debbie Wike hinted the dark times for the public library, which was established in 1901, are far from over.

As statewide media attention surrounding Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget centers on Wisconsin’s teachers, Ahler said around half of the public library’s budget derives from state aid.

She said the library’s operating budget is around $111,000. More than $59,000 of that is received from the state.

If that funding is cut, Ahler said as of this moment, there’s no backup plan.

“It all depends if the consortiums can keep it together,” she said, referencing the Lakeshores Library System, which is what supplies libraries such as the one in Genoa City with its materials for the public. “Plus they manage the whole catalog.”

Once the discussion turned to the budget, the conversation lessened, at least until Wike blurted out she doesn’t want to think about what would happen if what’s expected — the state budget cuts — become a reality.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Wike said. “But personally, I think the library does a lot for the community.”

Johnson said the library recently wrapped up its Food For Fines drive, in which food items were collected for Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry.

Several programs occur at — or involve — the Genoa City Public Library regularly. Some include Story Hour every Friday at 10 a.m., a six-week summer program and the Story Wagon program at Veterans Park.

Ahler said the library also is fortunate to have the Library Friends, a group of community members who also organize programs and ways to help the library such as an annual bake sale.

“We appreciate the Library Friends and all that they do,” she said.

But according to Ahler, the real challenge is going to arrive after the state budget is finalized. Then, it could be a matter of how quickly those new shelves are filled, or more.

“A lot of people still rely on the library, especially for Internet access,” Ahler said, adding the library has four computers available to the public. “But we’ll just have to wait and see (about the budget). It affects so much more than the teachers. It’s all village employees and so much more.”

Meanwhile, she said people still come in and ask her about local history. She and Johnson said some people even still stop in and ask where the post office is.