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Rhinelander District Library unveils plans for $7 million expansion and renovation project

Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR

Every year, the Rhinelander District Library adds new programs, items, and services to its collection.

While it continuously grows in impact, the building itself hasn’t grown since the 1980s.

Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR

The Rhinelander District Library fills a lot of needs in the community.

It provides books, audiobooks, movies, games, and activities for people of all ages to check out.

There’s internet and computers for people to use. Library staff help people get jobs, learn new technology, and notarized documents.

Library director Virginia Roberts says it’s an entertainment and learning facility.

“This library is vital to the community. There are a lot of businesses that would not be in this area were it not for the library. A lot of families that would not move here were it not for the library. It's a cultural institution that needs to be,” said Roberts.

A model of the what the Rhinelander District Library will look like with the new expansion.
Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR
A model of the what the Rhinelander District Library will look like with the new expansion.

For every need the library fills, it has needs of its own, ones that aren’t being met in its current facility.

The library and its foundation unveiled plans Wednesday morning to raise $7 million to fund a 7,650 square foot addition as well as some upgrades in the current building.

It will include things like updating staff work areas, replacing the elevator and making the building ADA compliant, and adding restrooms on the main level.

One of the biggest additions that Roberts says is currently missing is a community space.

“Over the last decade, we have seen more people coming in the building, more people requiring meeting spaces, places to sit, updated technology, just about everything you could possibly imagine. More space for children, we've had an increase, particularly since the pandemic, we've had an increase in children's need,” said Roberts. “Our office spaces are literally stacked on top of each other, that is the least of our worries. We really do want to do this, this is for the community. One of the things that has been a consistent theme is we do not have a community room that is open to the public, after hours area available for that. That is one of the big pieces here.”

The Rhinelander District Library recorded more than 64,000 visits in 2023. That’s an 11 percent increase from the year before.

Roberts says people need more space to come to work, especially people visiting for vacation or things like Hodag Country Fest. They’ve also seen an increased need in people needing spaces for telemedicine appointments.

The library will be funding the expansion with a combination of grants and private donations. It needs to raise $7 million for construction.

Donations can be made through the Rhinelander District Library Foundation. You may also mail your contribution, payable to the RDL Foundation, at PO Box 1225, Rhinelander, WI 54501.

Roberts hopes to break ground on the project next year.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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