By Bob Uphues
Having already landed the lion's share of its fundraising goal – a $1 million gift from Brookfield businesswoman Linda Sokol Francis – the Foundation for the Brookfield Public Library officially kicked off its campaign on Dec. 3 to raise another $400,000 to help fund the construction of a new facility.
About 100 people, ranging from prospective benefactors to friends of the library, gathered for an invitation-only kickoff event for the capital campaign in the Discovery Center at Brookfield Zoo.
"This is an opportunity to make the new library happen," said Jo Ann Day, president of the Foundation for the Brookfield Public Library during her opening remarks to attendees who nibbled on appetizers and sipped wine as they heard pitches from Day, local teacher Molly Knott, library Trustee Adam Burghgraef and library Director Kimberly Coughran.
"To say this is decades in the making is an understatement," said Burghgraef, referencing the library board's campaign to identify a site and amass the funds necessary to replace the present facility, built in the 1980s and almost immediately too small to handle the way contemporary libraries deliver services.
That changing role was at the center of a short video attendees watched before architects rolled out plans for the new building, which will be constructed on land purchased in 2012 by the library at 3541 Park Ave.
The video, produced by Motion Source, a downtown Brookfield-based video production company, not only sought to illustrate just how cramped the existing library is, but highlighted people whose lives have been impacted by programs and services provided by the library, such as Wesley Koerner, who at the age of 52 recently received his high school diploma through the library.
"As soon as everybody hears 'library,' the first thing they equate is 'books,'" Koerner said in the video. "But to see the programs that they offer – it's always hung over my head, on job applications, 'high school graduate' and putting a 'no' in there. … I'm 52 years old and I just graduated high school, and I'm pretty proud and my kids are really proud and my wife's proud of me, too."
Coughran made a point to introduce Francis, who gifted the library $1 million in September, and to point out the library's total fundraising goal was $1.4 million. The new library will be called the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library in recognition of that gift.
"It's a privilege to give to the library," Francis said. "It's not just for me. It's for my kids, and grandkids and great-grandkids. It's part of their inheritance."
In addition, said Coughran, the library board by the end of December will have set aside $5.8 million in a special reserve fund and has been guaranteed a loan of up to $3.5 million from the First National Bank of Brookfield.
The new facility is expected to cost between $10.5 and $10.8 million.
Coughran also announced that the first chip into that additional $400,000 goal had been pledged. First National Bank of Brookfield and the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce each have pledged $25,000 to underwrite the new library's 110-seat meeting room.
Phil Richard, chief financial officer of First National Bank of Brookfield, and Steven Langworthy, president of the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, both served on the library's new facility steering committee.
"We fashion ourselves as a good community bank and the library, I think, is a great community organization," said Richard. "We've proudly supported it over the years."
Richard also talked about the importance of the library as an evolving institution, providing services, programming and a place for people to meet.
"I think it's, frankly the value as a community gathering place for children, adults, for those looking for assistance in terms of finding work, classes, gathering places for the chamber," said Richard. "It's a central place for the community to come together, learn from one another and share the resources a library can provide."
Coughran let attendees know that they'd be hearing from the library soon to see if they'd like to join Francis, the bank and chamber of commerce in being a benefactor.
Local cookbook author and barbecue guru Meathead Goldwyn was among those in attendance.
"I brought my checkbook," said Goldwyn. "I don't know how much; I haven't decided. Of course, I'll support them. I'm an author, I have to support them."
The Brookfield Public Library was slated to host a public unveiling of the capital campaign at the library, after the Landmark's press time, on Dec. 4.