Brookfield lifts the veil on its new library

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The long-awaited new Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Public Library is now open. The sparkling new $ 11 million library received rave reviews when it debuted Friday night at a reception for donors who helped make the library possible.

“I love it; it’s beautiful,” said Susan Berthel, who, along with her husband Steve, donated approximately $ 150,000 to the library. The Berthels are the second largest individual donor to the library after the building’s namesake, who donated $ 1 million in 2018.

The new library contrasts starkly with the look and feel of the old library, which was built in 1985, across the street. While the old library was a bit dark and cramped, the new library, which measures just over 21,000 square feet, is bright, open, airy, and surprisingly modern in design and function.

“They took risks and it paid off,” said chief architect Dan Pohrte of Product Architecture and Design.

The 10-foot-high west-facing glass windows on the first and second floors are perhaps the key to the design. Natural light penetrates through the insulated windows, which offer a breathtaking view of the Grand Boulevard. Windows amplify the library’s open feel, while bright and efficient LED lighting adds to the clean, modern look.

This feeling is perhaps most evident in the visually striking children’s section that, along with the checkout area, occupies the first floor. The kids’ section, along with the rest of the bookcase, has a bright blue, green, and gray color scheme.

In the old library opposite, which will soon be demolished to become a parking lot, the children’s section adjoins the adults section. In the new library, children have their own floor.

“I think it will be good if the children can sprawl out and not be on top of each other,” said Christal Beyer, head of youth services at the library. “There is more space for children to come and do their homework, meet their friends or attend a library program. There is much more room for them to come and become children. … They can walk in and not have to worry as much about disturbing adults on their computers.

The adult section on the second floor features cushioned banquettes with individual tables spaced apart. It also has larger tables and a quiet study room in a corner and five other study rooms, including a four-person study room named after, with a whimsical twist by an anonymous donor, James and Lilly Potter, Harry Potter’s fictitious parents.

The second floor also features a manufacturing studio with a laser cutter, 3D printer, and a host of other devices that one can use to do almost anything.

“The possibilities are endless,” said Jessica Krieter, digital innovation librarian at the library. “The only limit is your imagination.”

The library has two new self-service checkouts and a sophisticated new sorting system that can sort returned books into the appropriate section bins by scanning a barcode, saving a lot of time compared to the sorting returned books.

The basement has a divisible meeting room with a meeting room with a capacity of 115 people, complete with a large screen monitor and another projection screen that protrudes from the ceiling.

At the donor reception on July 23, Brookfield Village President Mike Garvey congratulated Francis, saying the new library would be transformative for Brookfield.

“I think it’s very important that her name is on this building and the legacy she will leave in this village and the surrounding communities for what she has done for us,” Garvey said. “It’s great.”

Longtime trustees Carol Kissane and Dianne Duner were thrilled with the new library.

“It’s beautiful, it’s a long time coming,” Kissane said. “It took us 15 years, it took patience. We have worked hard and are very proud.

The road to a new library was winding. It all started in 2007 when the library board tried to buy several houses across from Kiwanis Park on Arden and Washington avenues.

That plan fell through when one of the owners refused to sell, leaving the library hit by a house in Arden it had already bought. The 2008 real estate crash left the library stuck with the house, which she rented before eventually selling it for a loss of nearly $ 100,000 in 2013.

In 2012, the library rotated and purchased The United Methodist Church at 3541 Park Ave., across from its longtime home at 3609 Grand Blvd. The library’s board had hoped to fund the construction of a new building by asking voters in 2016 to approve a referendum to sell $ 10.3 million in bonds.

Voters rejected the referendum, but Brookfield Library Director Kimberly Coughran never gave up. After rejecting the idea of ​​a second referendum, Coughran and the library board decided to try to raise the funds needed to build a new library by building up cash reserves through their levy. annual tax and donations.

The library board has amassed approximately $ 6 million in reserves. But that was not enough. In July 2018, Coughran and fundraising consultant Michael Bruni visited Francis at his financial planning firm in Eight Corners to request a large donation.

They had decided on an age-old fundraising tactic of offering naming rights to various aspects of the library in exchange for donations of varying amounts. Francis and Coughran were also members of the Brookfield Rotary Club.

“They just arrived on a good day,” Francis recalled Friday night.

Francis, who has run Brookfield Financial Plans at Brookfield for almost 40 years, agreed to donate $ 1 million and the library’s board decided to give the building his name. Francis cited her grandchildren as one of the reasons she decided to donate the money.

“My grandchildren are homeschooled. They are there all the time. They live a block down the street, ”Francis said.

Sokol Francis’ $ 1 million donation was essential and over 100 other people donated to a fundraising campaign that raised around $ 1.5 million. The library’s final step was to take out a 15-year, $ 3.6 million loan from the First National Bank of Brookfield.

“The library board, not just this board, but previous boards, saved for many years to make this happen,” said Jennifer Perry, library board member. “It’s something they decided in the early 2000s. Linda Sokol Francis pushed us to the limit. Linda is very modest about it, but she really made it happen.

Jo Ann Day, president of the Brookfield Public Library Foundation, said it was remarkable that the city was able to come together to raise funds to build a new library after the referendum was defeated.

“I don’t know how many communities could have done what this community did,” Day said.

Once she donated a million dollars, Francis did not get involved in the planning of the new library.

“I wrote the check and didn’t say another word,” she said.

On July 23, making brief remarks to donors and gathered guests, Francis was able to see what his generosity has helped build.

“I can’t believe it’s so beautiful,” said Sokol Francis. “It really, really is.”

The library has a smooth opening this week and will host a big opening party on Saturday, July 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that will include treasure hunts, craft studio demonstrations, a fairy tale hour, trips in virtual reality and crafts.

“We are delighted with the capacity of this much needed new building and all that it will offer residents of Brookfield for many years to come,” Coughran said in a text message Monday. “If the community response at the preview evenings can be used as a metric, Brookfielders of all ages will be very excited to use the new facility. “


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