Profile: Rhinelander District Library

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While 388 public libraries exist in Wisconsin, not every municipality can support a library within its own borders. Sometimes communities join together to share a public library. Such is the case in northern Wisconsin, where the Rhinelander District Library serves citizens in five communities: the City of Rhinelander and four contiguous towns of Crescent, Newbold, Pelican and Pine Lake.

The Rhinelander District Library (RDL), which is the only five-municipality district in the state, offers programs for all ages, including story times and summer reading programs for children and an author series and a topical program series for adults. In addition, they host an innovative book/movie discussion group for young adults, in which the library provides books that have been adapted into current movies. A local theatre provides free tickets and a conference room for discussions after the matinees.

“We are blessed with a local theatre owner who himself grew up in our library,” says Rhinelander District Library Director Kris Adams Wendt. The teen program has received a “phenomenal” response from area youth.

In addition to the in-house programs, which have brought many new patrons to the library, the RDL takes community outreach seriously. The Children’s Librarian makes monthly visits to all three local Head Start centers to read stories. The library also works hard to create a presence in area schools, such as classroom visits for reading days, career days and school carnivals. Four low-income senior residences are served by its biweekly “Books on the Go” program, which brings library materials every other week to four low-income senior residences.

The gratitude of the citizens of the greater Rhinelander area for the library and its programs has been reflected in a remarkable two-year turnaround. In 2004 the library faced the threat of deep budget cuts and the loss of one of its district partners. Citizens rallied to mend the rift, and representatives of the five district members later joined in nominating RDL for the Wisconsin Library Association’s Library of the Year.

During the same period, the entire community responded by stepping up both library use and donations to the library’s capital campaigns. Struck by the community’s support of the library during its troubled times, family members of Marie Pradt, a former library board member and ardent RDL supporter, gave the library a generous gift in her name. The Pradt Memorial Fund contribution and a campaign conducted by the RDL Foundation resulted in dramatic and much-needed renovations to the 20-year-old facility, which enhanced service and efficiency.

“I think people get what we’re about,” Wendt says.

“We strive to be a leading force in our service area, enhancing the quality of northwoods life for residents and visitors alike,” Wendt explains. “While we will never know all the ways in which the Rhinelander District Library has made a difference, it’s important to find new connections every single day.”

Visit the RDL web site to find out more.

RDL Staff
  The staff of Rhinelander District Library.

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So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-)

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