Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Building on our support

[my before-dinner speech at the I Love My Library dinner, Feb. 8, 2009]

There are a lot of people to thank for tonight, starting with all of you who came here in support of our library.

The best way I can show my appreciation is not to talk too long, because I know we're all waiting to enjoy a good meal. But I need to thank all the people whose names you see in your program: it takes a lot of work and not a few dollars to make an evening like this happen. So I first want to thank all those who sponsored, who solicited and donated silent auction items, and who did the work to prepare for tonight. Volunteers and staff have worked together so we can enjoy this evening.

Librarians are frequently asked questions, and a question I hear often is "What's happening with the Library building?" And to briefly share the answer with all of you, we're still looking at questions and making plans. We know that this is hard time for the economy of the whole planet as well as Appleton, and this is not the time to spend millions of dollars. But we also know that as things are difficult, libraries become more important to more people.

My job is to look at the long-term library service needs of our community. Most of what we do, libraries have been doing for millennia: collecting knowledge, organizing and making it available in service of education, commerce, spirit and community. More recently, public libraries are devoted to self improvement, helping people make informed decisions, family literacy, assistance in making productive use of online resources and providing open gathering places in a world where communication and learning uses electronics but depends on human interaction.

We know that libraries change lives and provide gateways and tools for transformation. We are fortunate to enjoy community support from donors, elected officials, volunteers and library users. We are fortunate to be part of a community that values learning and is rich in resources, with opportunities to collaborate with schools, community groups and other libraries in programs like Project Promise, Fox Cities Reads and the Fox Cities Book Festival.

What does that mean for the library building? Last year's study told us that we need more space for library users and materials. But even more, we need a facility that's designed to let us deliver service efficiently, that aids in security, that offers opportunities to access adequate electronic resources, that offers readily available spaces for gathering and programs. And so this year, we're going to look at some alternative layouts and costs. We're not ready to design a building, or to decide on location, until we first design some spaces and arrangements to provide the services the community needs from us. We'll be doing that this Spring and will keep everyone informed of the discussions, so the decision-makers on the Library Board and City Hall can determine next steps and a timeframe.

Neither last year's study nor this year's could have happened without funding from our Library Foundation. This effort has truly been a public-private partnership and I'm grateful that all of you have gotten us where we are. We know that as we go forward, we will continue to need community support on many levels. The staff will do our best, but the decisions about the library belong to all of you.

Thank you -- and now here's Rev. Will Bloedow to say grace for us.

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