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Public libraries benefit the whole community

They provide vital services, drive local economies

By David Morack

Now is the time! We have the opportunity to build a new 21st century library/resource center as the centerpiece of a revitalized downtown New London.

As a cornerstone to a 6-acre residential neighborhood on the Wolf River, the new library/resource center will attract families to our community and promote economic activity in our city’s core. As a mixed-use development, the project will use additional funding opportunities to maximize investments in a new library/resource center building.

The growth and impact of our New London Public Library is impressive. In the last 20 years, new programming and services have contributed to 9% growth in visits and 55% increase in meeting room usage. But the current building is undersized and presents significant challenges that prevent our community from realizing its full economic benefit.

We know that libraries make strong communities. Libraries provide vital services that educate and community gathering spaces that bring our community together. As a hub for digital resources and online services, our library also connects our residents, business owners, job seekers, and students to economic and civic life beyond our community. (Twenty percent of residents in Waupaca County depend on the library for high-speed internet!)

Yet, we often overlook libraries as an important economic driver for communities. From an economic standpoint:

• Our library is one of the busiest destinations in downtown New London. It attracts thousands of people and brings energy to the heart of our community.

• Increased access to technology, online educational resources, and free computer instruction helps improve individual and community workforce skills among working-age adults in New London.

• Libraries can have a positive impact on commercial and residential property values. Businesses located near libraries benefit from “halo” spending. And, just as with quality schools, residents value a quality library when selecting a community to live and raise their families.

The bottom line: For every $1 invested, Wisconsin’s libraries offer more than $4 economic return.
The time is right for our community to reinvest in the library. If we don’t move forward with the project now, the financial benefits of the mixed-use development will disappear.

For me, the new library/resource center is about what’s possible for our fine city. It will help revitalize our downtown and renew important investments that help retain and attract businesses and families to our community.

Dave Morack is president of the New London City Council and alderman for the Fifth District.

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