By Bob Skolnik
Plans for a new public library building in Brookfield were submitted to the village for review last month and will be considered by the village's Planning and Zoning Commission at the commission's March 28 meeting.
At a special meeting on Feb. 18 library trustees approved the final details of the plan for an approximately 21,000-square-foot, two-story building to be built at 3541 Park Ave., across Lincoln Avenue from the existing library.
The application for a planned unit development permit was submitted to the village on Feb. 27.
"We feel great about the application that we submitted, and we look forward to the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on the 28th," said Brookfield Public Library Director Kimberly Coughran.
The plan must ultimately be approved by the village board. If all goes well construction could start in the spring of next year, Coughran said.
A $1 million gift for the library made last year by Brookfield investment advisor and businesswoman Linda Sokol Francis in exchange for naming rights made a new library building, a long-sought goal by trustees and Coughran, possible after a bond referendum was defeated in 2016.
The new library building will be called the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Public Library in acknowledgement of the donation.
The new building is expected to cost around $10.5 million. The library has just under $6 million set aside in a special reserve fund for the new building and has received $1,173,050 in gifts toward the new building.
The Foundation for the Brookfield Public Library is now 86.57 percent of the way towards its goal of raising $1,355,000 for the new building. In addition, the library expects to borrow a little over $3 million from the First National Bank of the Brookfield.
"We are exceptionally grateful for our supporters," Coughran said.
Hitzeman Funeral Home, a family business in operation for 115 years – and on 31st Street in Brookfield since 1963 -- recently pledged to donate $50,000 to the library's capital campaign administered by the foundation. The funeral home is now owned by Charles "Chuck" Hitzeman and his wife, Danielle. The gift will be made over a period of years.
The foundation is offering naming rights in exchange for large contributions. The donation from Hitzeman Funeral Home will result in the new library's lobby being named in honor of the Hitzeman family.
Chuck Hitzeman has fond memories of going to the Brookfield Public Library as an adolescent with former funeral home employee Cliff Eckart, a retired postal worker, who taught young Chuck about investing in the stock market.
"He'd bring me to the library and show me all the different periodicals and publications where you could get all the stock data and all the current information about the companies and how to research them," Hitzeman said.
Hitzeman said that having a strong library is vital to Brookfield.
"It's giving back to the community," Hitzeman said of his gift. "Every viable and strong community has a strong library."
Steve and Susan Berthel, who owned Berthel Lewis Electric until shutting down the business in 2016, recently donated $20,000 to the library's capital campaign. A six-person meeting room and the Children's Activity Area will be named after the Berthels in appreciation of their gift.
Sue Berthel said she has used the library a lot in the 31 years that she and Steve have lived in Brookfield.
"We're doing this because we think that Brookfield needs the library expansion," Sue Berthel said. "Brookfield uses the library a lot and we need a lot more room. And I support Kim, who's worked very hard."
Earlier the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce and First National Bank of Brookfield teamed up for a $50,000 gift in exchange for the naming rights of the 110-person meeting room in the new library.
Additional naming opportunities are still available. In exchange for a $25,000 your or your business' name can be memorialized on the wall of the children's classroom, the makerspace, the outdoor plaza or the quiet reading room in the new library.
For $10,000 you can name the café area, the library director's office, or the teen space. Gifts of $5,000 will get you the right to name a four-person or two-person meeting room, staff work offices, audiovisual support for the children's area, or collaborative technology for study rooms.
A $2,500 gift will get you a plaque on an outside bench, naming rights to service kiosks or the public access computers and laptops. All naming decisions must be approved by the library board.
Donations can be made to the Foundation for the Brookfield Public Library and are tax deductible. Library and foundation officials have begun hosting micro events, such as an Oscars party at the home of the foundation's president, Jo Ann Day, last month, to reach out to potential donors. The library has been courting large donors for the past year. Later the library will offer a program where small donors can purchase brick pavers outside the new library.
At its Feb. 27 meeting, the library board extended its contract with its fundraising consultant for four more months but reduced the monthly fee it is paying to HUB Philanthropic Solutions to $4,000 a month from the previous $6,500 a month as the major gift solicitation component of the capital campaign begins to wind down.
At the same meeting library trustees voted unanimously to give Coughran a 4-percent pay raise, increasing her annual salary to $105,900.
"She has an excellent relationship with her staff and very progressive programs," said library board president Linda Kampschroeder. "We're on the cutting edge of technology."
Coughran has played a key role in the fundraising campaign and in developing plans for the new library.
"She's done so much above and beyond your usual library director," Kampschroeder said.