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Plan for Portage library expansion moves ahead; board approves consultant for fundraising

Plan for Portage library expansion moves ahead; board approves consultant for fundraising

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Portage Public Library board members threw their support and the library's resources behind a 6,000-square-foot building expansion, voting Tuesday to hire a consultant to help raise $1 million to $1.25 million through a nine-month community fundraising campaign.

"So that's a big forward step," board President Rich Davis after the vote.

Money for the expansion at 253 W. Edgewater St. would come from several sources:

• Up to $300,000 from the Bidwell Foundation, a local charitable institution that helped fund the original library building's construction with a $750,000 grant in 1995.

• Several hundred thousand dollars from the city of Portage. Library board members plan to make an appearance before the Common Council on Aug. 25 and present a case. Library Director Shannon Schultz said the idea was to pay for the expansion without new taxes.

The rest of the money would come from the community. To guide it in its fundraising efforts, the board voted to pay Madison, Ind.-based Woodburn, Kyle & Co. $90,000 plus some expenses such as partial cost of air travel. In return, the consulting company will provide its expertise as well as services and items such as volunteer training, campaign materials, a donor database, assistance in writing corporate proposals and news releases.

CEO and senior partner Peter Woodburn told the board Tuesday that his firm would go about the campaign in deliberate steps and insist on such things as training for all volunteers, who would be brought in from the start. His company also would work with the architect to locate donor naming opportunities within the library itself.

"Everything is structured," he said.

"He isn't just collecting money," board secretary Eleanor McLeish said. "It's PR for the library."

The board in late June voted to pay Woodburn, Kyle & Co. $12,500 for a study to evaluate whether the community would support a library expansion. Woodburn gave a presentation and an 88-page report to the board Tuesday, based on confidential interviews with 44 community members, that said it would. There is a clock, however: The Bidwell Foundation specified in its offer of support - up to $200,000 to be matched by the city of Portage and up to another $100,000 to be matched by the community - that the addition must be under construction by Dec. 31, 2012.

Otherwise, the offer is off the table.

The board used a secret ballot. Board members wrote their votes on slips of paper and passed them to Davis, who counted them and announced the motion to hire Woodburn, Kyle & Co. passed 7 to 1.

Before the vote, board member Dr. David Gregory stated that volunteers, not a fundraising consultant, are what bring donations into a campaign and described the company's fee as "unpalatable" for that reason.

"I think we owe it to our volunteers that we provide them with ... professional leadership," board member Addie Tamboli said, adding that she has seen other fundraising campaigns fail through the lack of fundraising expertise.

Library board members also questioned the use of a Madison-based video production company to create a promotional video about the expansion project, suggesting a local company might be used instead.

The expansion would add about 6,000 square feet to the library and would include a new young adult area, a children's area and a technology center. Early estimates by project architect Michael Bahr of Plunkett Raysich Architects said it might cost $1.8 million to $2.4 million, but board members have said they think the cost can be brought to $1.5 million. Schultz stressed after the board meeting that details can be adjusted based on community input and that discussion about an expansion started long before she became director in late 2009. Woodburn, Kyle & Co.'s report said the existing building, at 18,300 square feet, was less than the 19,999 square feet deemed to be sufficient through 2013 when it was constructed in 1995.

"It's a very needs-based plan," Schultz said.

Schultz also stressed that Woodburn, Kyle & Co.'s position would be that of consultant, not of a firm directly asking people for donations.

"They're counsel. They're not doing the fundraising," she said. "This is a community-driven project, and it's for the benefit of the people in the community."

In other business:

• Schultz said the library's RFID project is moving ahead. Library patrons can expect self-checkout to be available early next year.

By the numbers

Woodburn, Kyle & Co.'s fundraising campaign study included several numbers about the library:

• 500 patrons on average each day.

• About 700 items checked out each day.

• 6,000 people hosted in meetings and programs during 2010.

• 276 children's programs serving more than 8,000 child visits during 2010.

• Growth in the library's holdings from 60,000 items in 2001 to more than 75,000 items today.

• Almost 140,000 items processed through interlibrary loan, an increase of 525 percent since its introduction in 1994.

• 18,300 square feet available in the existing building, less than the 19,999 square feet recommended in 1995 to be sufficient through 2013.

Source: Woodburn, Kyle & Co. report


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