At some point the Brookfield Public Library is going to expand their existing facility. How are we so sure? Well, have you been inside the place? It’s too small. Library officials have been making this case, convincingly, for the past decade.
OK, so what’s it going to take?
The library board has saved money expressly for future expansion and also has created a foundation to raise private funds.
The trick has always been getting everyone on board. Of course, there will always be people in the community who are dead-set against any expansion of the library, for a variety of reasons. It’s unlikely those folks will be swayed by any argument in favor.
However, if the expansion project isn’t headed to referendum — and it’s clearly not — then there are two key partners in this endeavor.
There’s the library board itself and there is the Brookfield Board of Trustees, which wields the power of approving zoning variations and special use permits that will be necessary for any sizable expansion.
For the past decade, the library has viewed village government through a lens of suspicion. It goes back to 2007 when the village mistakenly levied only half of the property taxes that the library had requested.
Even though the library is governed by a separate board and levies its own taxes, the library’s tax levy must be included with the village’s each year when tax levies are extended. The village of Riverside works this way, too.
That’s in contrast to an official library district, like North Riverside’s, which is its own separate taxing body, untethered to the village.
In most places, despite a village government being connected to a library, the two typically operate autonomously and stay out of each other’s political matters. In Brookfield, the library has been particularly sensitive to the village connection since some residents will call for the village to stop things like library referendum questions in their tracks or oppose things like building new facilities.
The matter of the levy mistake didn’t serve to calm those jitters, and library officials throughout the years have privately expressed their belief that village government has it in for them.
Going back to where we began: The library is going to expand. It has to if it is to continue appropriately serving Brookfield residents.
So how does the cold war between the village and library end?
Perhaps the best course of action would be to convene a special meeting of both boards — not for the village board to help design the library or for the library to get a design pre-approved before going through the planning process — but for the library and its architects to lay out what options it is pursuing and get feedback and ideas about things like closing streets, moving utilities and traffic flow to see what’s even feasible.
There’s no sense in the village leading the library to believe something is possible when it is not. That’s a waste of everyone’s time and money. In being as forthright as possible, perhaps the village can chip away, whether it’s warranted or not, at the decade-long distrust the library harbors.
In other words, let’s talk to one another.