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Adding value to Brown County communities

Outside of the Brown County Library
The Brown County Library (BCL) was recently selected by the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) as the 2023 WLA Library of the Year. Kris Leonhardt photo

Brown County Library is WLA Library of the Year

By Kris Leonhardt


GREEN BAY – The Brown County Library (BCL) was recently selected by the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) as the 2023 WLA Library of the Year.

The award recognizes “distinguished achievement in service provided by any type of Wisconsin library, library system or network” and is based on accomplishments in community impact, innovation and service to patrons.

Library Executive Director Sarah Sugden said that the library places a large emphasis on being “people-focused and action-oriented.”

“As a passive participant in community life and development, the public library benefits few. Brown County needs its public library to be a leader and active participant in collaborative work to support people and communities,” she said.

“BCL’s work to raise awareness about declining youth reading proficiency rates is an example of our collaborative, people-focused, and action-oriented work. When BCL staff noticed the decline in 2021, we immediately connected with initial key partners, Achieve Brown County and GBAPS. We worked together to pull in other organizations and key stakeholders to plan and host a community summit focused on reading and the impact of declining youth reading proficiency rates. This summit, held in October 2022, has, excitingly, sparked varied action in our community to tackle this tough issue.

“While much more work remains, the community summit was an important catalyst and first step.” 

Sugden said that over the past five years, the library has worked to strengthen internal operations and enhance delivery of library services.

“Part of that work has been to seek feedback and input from our community. A 2020 survey of users and interviews with community leaders provided useful and sometimes tough feedback about BCL and our work in the community. We really took that feedback to heart, and we have been working to dispel perceptions of the library as irrelevant and out-of-touch with the community.

“We refreshed our brand and visual identity and also launched a new website. We have developed new varied strategies and tactics to inform our community about BCL resources and services. We also established collaboration as a core component of successful library services.”

Sugden added that collaboration with community partners heightens the impact of the library and the region has been very responsive to aiding with county patron needs, which is also placed at the center of “all library operations, policies, procedures, resources and services.” 

“The library’s brand — It’s Yours — and visual identity, a new website and room reservation system, organizational goals focused on customer service and empathy and the development of a Belonging Action Plan demonstrate the library’s response and commitment to the community. A Library Story initiative gathers user impact stories that are shared on social media, library reports and interior displays,” library staff said.

The Brown County Library system — consisting of the Central Library location, eight branches and a bookmobile — was established in 1968.

Today, the library system serves 80% of Brown County households.

“Local assessments, plans and surveys help provide essential insight into changing community needs, opportunities and challenges. It’s critical that we stay relevant. We want to add value to our communities and the lives of people who live here.”

The Library of the Year award will be presented at the Wisconsin Library Association Awards & Honors Ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 26.

For more information on library services, visit www.browncountylibrary.org.

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