Milwaukee library budget cuts; director seeks feedback

Milwaukee Library Director Joan Johnson is visiting all 13 library branches to get people's feedback on what to keep or enhance with budget challenges ahead this year.

"We really want to know how they are using their libraries now and how they want to be able to use their libraries in the future," said Johnson.

The "Community Conversations" will help the Milwaukee Public Library sort out potential budget cuts.

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FOX6 News asked Johnson if closing branches is on the table.

"What we ended up proposing for this year, and didn't have to do, was to move to some new service models," said Johnson.

Library Director Joan Johnson 

Johnson said a reduction in staff, hours or services would be spread equally throughout the library system. Feedback will help the library understand why 50% of its patrons stopped coming after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Beefing up our efforts through outreach units," Johnson said when asked how the library might get those people back.

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Viral videos on TikTok have proven a successful outreach method for the library. A federal and state ban on TikTok may force the library to evolve in a new direction. 

"If it does, we will just – you know –be compliant with whatever laws are put in place," said Johnson regarding if similar bans hit the local level.

Physical library visits might be down, but digital services have skyrocketed in recent years. Johnson said things like e-books and laptop checkouts have increased.

To find a complete list of the meetings all the way through June, visit the library's website.