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OUR VIEW: New library director inherits building fray

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opinion New Richmond, 54017
New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

Kimberly Hennings has her work cut out for her.

Hennings will take over as director of New Richmond’s Friday Memorial Library on Monday, and we already feel for her.

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She will jump directly into the center of a struggle more than a decade in the making to build a new library for the New Richmond community.

Her diplomacy skills will be in demand as she begins working with multiple stakeholders, including city staff, elected officials, boards and committees.

The members of the city’s Library Board appear to be at odds with members of the New Richmond City Council, the New Richmond School District administration and a joint committee tasked with exploring the possibility of using the Community Commons as a future library site.

During their meeting on Feb. 4, members of the Library Board bemoaned the fact that the Commons site was still up for discussion despite the facts that the building is no longer suitable for the purpose it was constructed and that the school district didn’t see fit to invest in property upgrades for its own use.

It seems that a library on the Commons site may create synergy with other local services, including Community Education, the food shelf, the VFW and the nearby New Richmond Area Centre. However, members of the Library Board believe the City Beautiful deserves a beautifully modern library facility, not a makeshift one just to fit within the footprint of an 80-year-old school building.

It’s clear that the school district has a stake in unloading its burdensome property. It’s clear that Mayor Fred Horne wants to avoid traffic congestion near the fire station that a modern library facility would almost certainly draw. And it’s clear that the Library Board prefers to build on its current site where Knowles Avenue, First Street and the Willow River converge.

It will be interesting to see how Hennings handles the situation and all the players in it.

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