Milwaukee Public Library budget cut; nearly $2M reduction possible

Proposed city budget cuts mean the Milwaukee Public Library could lose $1.9 million – a nearly 7% cut – meaning a reduction of services and hours.

The Milwaukee Public Library Foundation, a private organization, provides 90% of funding for programs provided by the libraries. While the proposed cuts could hurt those services, there may be help on the horizon.

"I’ve been using libraries my whole life," said parent Antoine Carter. "I’m using it as an adult and kind of living through my kid again."

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Like the books that fill the Milwaukee Public Library, the budget story being told now is filled with ups and downs. Carter makes weekly trips, finding new books and taking advantage of new programs – but all of that could change.

"No one wants those sort of things to disappear," Carter said. "You don’t want to see the library get cut out."

The Milwaukee Public Library Foundation annually provides $1.4 million, on average, to the library.

"My initial reaction was one of shock," said Ryan McDaniel, the organization's executive director. "The Foundation’s mission is to supplement, but not supplant city dollars."

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McDaniel said proposed cuts would be a detriment to the library system, and one that needs to be looked at again. Milwaukee's common council president and finance chair are trying to restore library funding with an amendment. Daniels said it might only be a short-term fix.

"It is going to take long-term legislative change to fund our libraries in an appropriate way," McDaniel said.

The library director said the board will be discussing the latest push to restore services at its meeting tomorrow. The Common Council Finance and Personnel Committee will consider the budget amendment on Thursday, Oct. 27.