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Smart Cuts - Rethinking Libraries in Milwaukee

Ian Scott on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 6:28:49 pm

31_31_64---Book Since their inception by Benjamen Franklin, public libraries have grown into venerable community institutions.  Not only do they serve as repositories for the printed word and connection points to the world via the internet, libraries often serve as a venue for civic engagement and cultural enrichment.

Yet, cities, towns and counties across the country are feeling the effects of this economy.  Declining property tax revenue and less support from the states have left cities cash strapped and forced to make cuts.  And despite all their merits, public libraries are among the budget items on the chopping block.

The story is no different in Milwaukee, WI.  They face the same challenges and tough budget decisions that everyone else does.  But when talk of closing libraries inevitability hit Milwaukee, the library board began exploring smart cuts and thinking about reorganization.  They have come up with 4 proposals that make use of some existing neighborhood libraries but incorporate new concepts like mixed use libraries and express libraries in existing retail space to save money.  The proposals could save the city between $500K and $1.1 million per year. 

Check out this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for more details: Board asks public about library options

While it may not ultimately be enough, the entrepreneurial spirit of this public institution is commendable.  No one wants to slash public services like libraries, but budgetary realities will force us to explore new ideas and take a close look at how efficiently and effectively our current delivery systems operate.  Local chambers can help lead this process by offering suggested based on sound business principles.

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