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Opening a New Chapter

community collaboration brings library to Elk Mound

Barbara Arnold, photos by Andrea Paulseth

CHECK IT OUT, FOLKS. Librarian Katie Johnson at work in the brand-new Elk Mound Library.
CHECK IT OUT, FOLKS. Librarian Katie Johnson at work in the brand-new Elk Mound Library.

Bring together a village president, a library director, and dozens of committed citizens, and you have a new library and community center for close to 4,000 people in Elk Mound and the surrounding area.

Elk Mound resident Katie Johnson, a librarian at newly opened Elk Mound Library, choked up when she shared the impact of the new facility. It officially opened in April and had a grand opening party in mid-August. “There are a ton of children in Elk Mound,” she said. “I had 40 children sign up for the summer reading program. Reading over the summer will give them a leg up when they start school this fall. The schools bring in about 1,100 (K-12) students, and having a library is going to go a long way for them.” As Elk Mound resident Nicole Richele posted on Facebook: “We’re very excited to have such a positive atmosphere for our kiddos to go so close to home!”

Elk Mound Village President Andy Peterson was directly involved in the project as president of the Community Library and Center. The new facility “means more than you can imagine to us,” he said. Peterson continued: “The library is a resource for adults and children alike. Adults need computers, Wi-Fi, resource materials, and a place to meet. They can rent the community center for a party or fun class, like karate, Zumba, yoga, or painting. Children need to do research, read books, and use computers. They can join after-school reading programs and attend monthly movie nights. In the future, we plan to have a homework club, more story time activities, and possibly French lessons.”

“The Library and Community Center means more than you can imagine to us.” – Andy Peterson, Elk Mound village president

Plans have been in the works for years. “It was discussed and published in our comprehensive plan in 2000,” he said. “Since then, it has been something we wanted.” At the time, Elk Mound residents would have to drive to a library in Menomonie, Chippewa Falls, Colfax, or Eau Claire to check out books, periodicals, DVDs, and CDs or to use computers. In 2010, a group of interested citizens met to determine what was needed to build a community center and library. Their vision: a new building. They initially pursued creating a 501(c)(3) group because they did not want to use taxpayer dollars. However, they abandoned that idea after learning the complexity and cost of starting such a nonprofit organization. They also faced the challenge of paying for a new building.

In January 2012, the village board voted to buy an old, run-down laundromat at E101 Menomonie St. in downtown Elk Mound. The board intended to sell the building to a potential business or to reserve it for some other use. That “some other use” would soon become the library and community center for $10,000.

“I went to our committee and pitched the idea of buying the laundromat from the village,” Peterson said. “We would do all of the interior demolition work ourselves and contract someone to build it. Then, I went back to the village board and presented my idea. I said I would work to raise all of the funds. From that point, we worked on grant writing, building design, and fundraising.”

Also in 2012, Ted Stark, director of the Menomonie Public Library, entered the story. Stark provided advice on how to set up a library. “One thing led to another,” he explained. “We helped them set up a ‘holds and pick-up’ location in the village hall.” By May 2012, the so-called “Red Box Library” – the name is a reference to the Redbox movie kiosk – opened in the Elk Mound Village Hall.

In January 2013, the Otto Bremer Foundation awarded the project a $130,000 grant based on Peterson’s application. Other individual donations and fundraisers, such as the “Booking It for Books” fun run, have helped pay for the remodeling costs of $180,000. Fundraising, though, is ongoing and will continue.

“Remodeling wasn’t a big issue,” Peterson shared. “No major surprises. It was an old building. We took it down to four walls and rebuilt it from there. Everyone was excited and just wanted to get the project done.”

Eleven-year-old Ryder Simington uses a computer at the new Elk Mound Library.
Eleven-year-old Ryder Simington uses a computer at the new Elk Mound Library.

The Menomonie Public Library donated the majority of materials, such as books, DVDs, newspapers, music CDs, books on tape, and a copier, as well as shelving, tables, and chairs. The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire donated computers. Other items were bought or came from the Dunn County News and the Elmwood and Jim Falls public libraries.

In April, the Elk Mound Community Library and Community Center opened its doors. To make the library work, the Menomonie Public Library and the Village of Elk Mound entered into a memorandum of understanding, with the library providing staffing and materials and the village providing the building, utilities, and maintenance.

“We hope to continue to expand service in Elk Mound with more hours, programs, books, and movies as our budget allows,” Stark said. Based on the momentum created, that’s sure to happen with additional donations.

Elk Mound Community Library and Community Center • E 101 Menomonie St., P.O. Box 188, Elk Mound, WI 54739 • Hours: Monday, 10am-4pm; Tuesday. 10am-6pm; Wednesday, 10am-4pm, and Thursday, 1-8pm • 917-1070 • elkmound.menomonielibrary.org

HOW TO HELP

“We are still trying to raise $50,000 to pay the remaining expenses,” said Village President Andy Peterson. If you would like to donate, make your check payable to the Village of Elk Mound/Community Center Library Fund, P.O. Box 188, Elk Mound, WI 54739.

Donations are tax deductible. For more information, call the village office at 879-5011.