L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library looking to raise $7 million for expansion

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A local library will be undergoing major renovations and community leaders are asking for the public's support on the project.

The story builder campaign aims to raise $7 million to expand the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire.

The current library building is more than 40 years old and the city says it is facing a critical space shortage.

“Often times it’s difficult to find places to sit,” said Library Director Pamela Westby. “We’re bursting at the seams with our youth services areas.”

The library says some people have been turned away from popular programs that are filled to capacity and there is limited space for adding new materials.

“Library usage was absolutely exploding and it was evident that we needed to expand if we were going to continue to serve the Eau Claire community with our public library,” said Carol Gabler, library campaign co-chair.

A 2017 building evaluation found a leaky roof, poorly functioning HVAC system, and outdated plumbing. Other issues include challenges with electrical and data, outdated plumbing, unaddressed accessibility concerns, outmoded alarm system, uneven pavement, and obstructed sight lines.

At this rate, the city says maintenance expenses would currently cost the city more than $1 million per year if the aging systems are not replaced.

The City of Eau Claire is contributing $11.5 million toward the building plans. The remaining $7 million needed for the privately funded expansion will be raised through this story builder campaign.

They say they hope to have the money raised when construction starts in 2021. If they don't raise the full amount, they may have to scale back until they can get it.

“The library is critical to a community," said said Dale Peters, city manager. "They help with a quality of life and they help create a sense of community, a place where all people can go and learn.”