Beloit Public Library Earns State Award
June 26, 2019

The Wisconsin Policy Forum honored Beloit Public Library and the City of Beloit at the organization’s prestigious 27th Annual Salute to Local Government on June 25.

The substantial number of outstanding nominations this year prompted the Forum to award — for the first time ever — an Honorable Mention in the “Innovative Approach to Problem Solving” category to Beloit Public Library for the cost-savings reorganization of its service model and its Blender Learning Café partnership.

“This is an incredible honor and an affirmation that the creativity and dedication of BPL staff in blazing this trail these last 12 months was justified,” said Library Director Nick Dimassis. “The fact that public libraries across the state have taken notice and want to replicate our example, with their municipal partners, is irrefutable evidence that public libraries remain relevant and responsive to their communities. And I’m proud that Beloit is leading the way.”

Since last May, Beloit Public Library has been undergoing a change to its service model that improves service by removing the barriers of traditional reference desks and department structures and focusing on the delivery of service to the customer. That delivery comes by the way of staff who roam the floor to help patrons where they are, three service desks that are able to process any type of transaction, staff who are cross-trained, and staff members dedicated to engaging children in play, conversation, activity, games, puzzles, and reading – the moment they cross the threshold into the children’s area.

“Municipalities across Wisconsin have to find unique ways to deliver services with little to no funding increases each year,” said Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther. The library staff excelled in finding a solution that delivers customer service to library patrons while also providing workforce development opportunities for Beloit high school students at the Blender Café. The City of Beloit is proud of all the library has accomplished to eliminate silos, implement streamlined customer service interactions, and provide workforce skills to our youth.”

Since undergoing the change, Beloit Public Library staff have presented the innovative model to a number of audiences, including at the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries Conference in May. A number of libraries including Milwaukee Public Library, Rockford Public Library, Mukwonago Community Library, and TB Scott Library (Merrill), have since reached out to visit BPL and learn how the model works as they consider making similar changes at their own facilities.

The 2019 Salute to Local Government Awards was held at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee with Governor Tony Evers as the keynote speaker. Director Nick Dimassis and City Manager Lori Curtis Luther accepted the award on behalf of the library and the city. Also in attendance were BPL Board President Marty Densch, BPL Board Vice President Maribeth Miller, as well as city and library staff.

The Salute to Local Government is one of the few events in the state of Wisconsin that highlights the value of public sector performance and the benefits that public sector innovation and excellence bring to taxpayers and their communities. The event reflects the Wisconsin Policy Forum’s strong belief that good government is worth celebration, and that there are many examples of ingenuity and outstanding performance in local governments and school districts that need to be recognized.

The Salute included awards categories that recognize governments and school districts for innovative problem-solving, effective use of technology, partnership, and cooperation, as well as individuals in the public sector for excellence and lifetime achievement. The 2019 Salute to Local Government award winners were:

Innovative Approach to Problem Solving
Amsterdam Dunes Preservation Area and Wetland Mitigation Bank, Sheboygan County

Innovative Approach to Problem Solving (Honorable Mention)
Library Services Model and Blender Cafe Program, Beloit Public Library

Innovative Use of Data or Technology
Washington County Park Fees, Washington County

Intergovernmental Cooperation
Improving Fire/EMS Capabilities in Milwaukee Region, North Shore Fire Department, cities of Milwaukee, West Allis, Wauwatosa, Greenfield, St. Francis, and Oak Creek

Public-Private Cooperation
St. Anthony’s Place, Milwaukee County and Heartland Alliance

Jean B. Tyler Leader of the Future Award
Kayla Chadwick, Administrator/Clerk for Village of Butler
Sam Leichtling, Long-Range Planning Manager for the City of Milwaukee

James R. Ryan Lifetime Achievement Award
Lynn Green, Retired Director for Dane County Department of Human Services

Norman N. Gill Award
Janet Schutz Nelson, Chief Legal Counsel for Milwaukee County Department of Child Support Services

The Wisconsin Policy Forum was created in January 2018 with the merger of the Madison-based Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and the Milwaukee-based Public Policy Forum. It is a statewide, nonpartisan, independent policy research organization with offices in Milwaukee and Madison. Its mission is to provide informed analysis of critical policy issues affecting local governments, school districts, and the state of Wisconsin. Its research and facilitation activities encourage elected officials and community leaders to find effective, data-driven solutions to pressing policy challenges, and promote productive discussion among the public and private sectors. It is supported by hundreds of corporations, nonprofits, local governments, and school districts, as well as more than 1,000 individuals. Membership includes political, civic, and opinion leaders.

Beloit Public Library provides an outstanding array of services for a population of 48,000 people residing in the City of Beloit, as well as outlying areas in Beloit and Turtle townships. In a community known for its diversity, Beloit Public Library strives to reach everyone in the community with unique programming for all ages, a full range of library materials, and rapidly evolving computer technology and workforce development tools and resources.

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