The budget issues surrounding the La Crosse public libraries has created quite the buzz around our area.
The library board has held listening sessions at all three branches, and Saturday was the final meeting at the Main Branch.
Earlier this week, Mayor Tim Kabat announced that funds are in order to keep all three branches of the library open for 2015 with no major changes coming. Now that things are in order for next year, at Saturday's listening session the library board focused on long-term solutions.
After announcing the possibility of closing a branch of the La Crosse library last fall, Library Director Kelly Krieg-Sigman said asking for community help was a must.
"The three listening sessions were beyond beneficial. They were absolutely critical, it was something we had to do. I look at it as a step forward in rebuilding our credibility with the community because I know we lost some," Krieg-Sigman said.
Krieg-Sigman said at Saturday's meeting she had more of an opportunity to explain the library's budget and how its money is spent, which opened up the conversation of fundraising among those in the audience.
"There was an awful lot of discussion about ways of raising funding in an ongoing way to sustain our level of service. So I'm going to be talking with the library board president very shortly in moving ahead on conversations at (the) board level about making that happen," Krieg-Sigman said.
"I am so glad that I came to this meeting and really got a lot of things that I didn't understand cleared up and actually have given me an idea of how I would direct some of my extra funds," longtime La Crosse resident James Pake said.
Pake said he went to Saturday's meeting with a complaint, but leaves happy with the community involvement and the way the library board is handling things.
"The people and the board are really intent on keeping these branch libraries open," Pake said.
Krieg-Sigman said the library board is getting a lot of good, helpful suggestions from concerned residents who want to help find a solution, but even though the board is receiving great support and feedback the only thing the library can do right now is wait.
"Until I know for sure what I have to operate with next year I can't move ahead very aggressively on other initiatives or other improvements. I need to know that first," Krieg-Sigman said.
She said the 2015 budget was due Friday. La Crosse Mayor Kabat will now be looking over the operating budgets of all city departments until the first budget meeting on Sept. 14.
Before the end of the year, the library director is hoping to get an efficiency consultant and a salary and compensation study done because staffing is the biggest cost for the library and many questions have been raised from the community about it.