The south branch of the La Crosse Public Library on 16th Street will be closed permanently Dec. 1 to reduce costs.
The library board announced the closing decision Tuesday, following a city budgeting move to cut 2 percent from library operating funds, representing more than $100,000.
A library news release said budget deficits over the past 10 years led to staff and programming changes, making it difficult to operate three library locations in La Crosse.
The library will continue to operate its primary building on Main Street and its north branch on Kane Street.
The news release said library officials were faced with a choice of eliminating staff positions and services, or eliminating at least one service location.
Here is the full statement on the branch closing as show on the library’s website:
The La Crosse Library Board of Trustees is once again saddened to share that due to a city-wide budget shortfall, we are facing reductions in municipal funding to the library, the result of which is an additional reduction in force of our library staff as well as the elimination of one of our Branch facilities. We know this will have an impact on our library services and programs, and we do not make this decision lightly.
As our patrons know, the library is primarily a service organization. It is our amazing and award-winning staff who make the library the treasure it is. They work tirelessly to provide new services, select, and process materials, to develop responsive programming, and to ensure that our patrons have the information, education, and connection they need. They assist with everything from early literacy development to job searching to collaborations across city departments, local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations who serve youth while providing a safe, free, and welcoming community space for our diverse residents and their varied needs within our city.
In fact, during our recent Strategic Planning sessions, the feedback we received from the community was incredibly validating of the hard work of our library employees. In fact, the gist of the responses was that we should continue to do all we do, but just do more of it.
Unfortunately, the bulk of our operating budget goes to the salaries of those same staff members. When facing ten years of stagnant or reduced revenue streams, we have little recourse but to revisit the closure of the South Community Library, originally proposed after another such reduction in 2013. As our patrons know, in 2020, because of a large city-wide deficit, the library reduced staffing by more than 11 FTEs. And, while a little more than half of those positions were restored, we are here once again recognizing that despite that restoration, our library has 20% fewer employees than it did in 2010 and is facing yet more cuts.
We approached the 2020 deficit with sadness, but with a commitment to reorganize our departments, create efficiencies, leverage partnerships, and restructure our organization to best serve our community in a post-COVID environment. Unfortunately, all the creative thinking, cross-training, and efficiency-building has been done. We are now at the limits of where we can stretch our staff to meet the needs of the community.
Because we know that the library is an essential resource for so many people of all ages and from all walks of life, the library leadership team continues working with community partners to provide outreach services that can meet the needs of our far south neighborhoods as we move forward with the plan to close South.
Of our three locations, South is the clear choice, not only due to evolving and reduced usage, but simply because of location. South Library branch is a mere 1.6 miles from our primary location, the Main Library. Many of the families and other patrons who use that branch also visit us at Main. Additionally, South has evolved into a holds pickup and returns drop off location—uses that can be replicated in more efficient ways.
North, on the other hand, serves neighborhoods almost three miles away from Main with little recourse for walkers and bicyclists. Additionally, the service population of the North Library consists of many neighborhood children and families due to its proximity to Northside Elementary, Logan Middle, and Logan High School.
For many years, our library has been the only one in a city of our size in Wisconsin to maintain three locations and that is simply no longer sustainable. While this is hard for many of us to acknowledge, we have been grappling with this situation for many years and now must act.
More information on the library’s historic budget, staffing and services can be found here.
Your continued support of the library is greatly appreciated as we continue providing library service to the entire community. The La Crosse Public Library is your library.