$500K federal grant to help with Lakewood library

Lakes Country Public Library in Lakewood has received word from U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin that their grant request of $500,000 was included in the 2023 federal budget. The money will be used toward an extensive renovation and expansion of the facility.

Plans for the addition include enhanced technology, more public use computer stations, easier access for patrons with disabilities, an enlarged children’s library and a new Teen Zone. There are also plans for a soundproof room for access to telehealth services, a quiet study room furnished and equipped for those with sensory/learning challenges, a local history room and even a soft seating area to relax and read a book or periodical chosen from the library’s extensive collection.

“In communicating with Sen. Baldwin’s staff, we learned that she was supportive of the project from the day she read our application,” said fundraising committee chairwoman Kathleen Marsh. “Like us, she was concerned that Lakewood Library had outgrown its ability to provide adequate services. We are thrilled that she has helped us take this giant step toward reaching our fundraising goal so that we can fulfill our mission of providing 21st century services in a very underserved rural community.”

Tom Thielke, the library’s building expansion committee co-chairman, thinks the term “underserved” is a bit off the mark.

“We have no schools in the four towns (Doty, Lakewood, Riverview and Townsend) that own the library jointly, so we are the go-to information and learning center in northern Oconto County,” Thielke said.

Library Director Katie Essermann believes more could be done if the technology was there and more space was available, noting that their tiny size doesn’t show that Lakewood’s library has had the highest circulation countywide for the last two years.

“Monday morning children’s storytime typically draws an overflow contingent of the wee ones,” Essermann said. “We absolutely need a safe and welcoming area for our teens. The tiny meeting room, which is actually a book storage closet, is busy every day of the week, and, at all hours of the day and night, residents and visitors park outside to access our reliable high-speed internet.”