BY SHIMANA BOSE —
The Shorewood Public Library and the Village Departments collaborated on a project to create a Civic Information Center this spring. “Collaboration is nothing new; it’s something that the library and the village practice all the time,” said Patrick Linnane, former village trustee. “The library and the village staff are very tuned in to working with each other so that residents can get the information they need about the village and in ways that are comfortable and easy for them to get it.”
The Civic Information Center, or CIC, provides Shorewood residents access to important civic documents and information regarding the village, such as voting information, the annual budget and more.
“The documents are things like the annual budget, voter registration information, master plans, things like the pedestrian and bike master plans, the strategic visioning of the village,” said Emily Passey, assistant director of the library.
Currently located near the adult information desk in the library, the CIC is a small shelf that is accessible to all village and even non-village residents to browse and locate important village documents and information. All the information provided at the CIC is available online, but also provides a hard copy for another medium of information.
“All the documents that we have here are … available on the Village of Shorewood website,” Passey said, “And … they can make photocopies here … but hard copies cannot leave the library.”
Those involved in the collaboration hope this is a way to reach out to residents who do not have access to a computer or dislike electronic methods.
“For people who don’t access information digitally this is going to be a huge help to know that their needs are being met by physical hard copies of the village’s biggest and most important documents, and for people who do access these digitally, it’s going to be an eye opener,” Passey said. “It really meets the library mission to make sure that access is equitable.”
In addition to providing equity to the access of information, it also allows residents to view certain documents that cannot be displayed online.
“Some of the maps might be too big for the some of the electronic modes, so there’s an opportunity to have representations of things that could not otherwise be showcased,” Linnane said. “This effort is one where both the village and the library are consistently looking for new ways for getting information to and getting information back for residents.”
The idea first began when the village was concerned that there was not an easy and available mode of access for information concerning the Wilson Drive project and other information, such as voter registration.
“Early on … we felt that for the people who wanted to keep up with Wilson Drive, we need as many ways as possible to do that, and this was one of the ways … to reach out to people, not just with Wilson Drive, but as an informed community,” Linnane, said.
“I believe [voter registration] was a big part of it,” said Bryan Davis, superintendent. “Looking at the new rules around voter registration, especially considering the high participation in the primary and the general election coming up, making sure people have information regarding that.”
From there, the Department of Public Works, Department of Planning and Development, the Public Library and the village board worked together to materialize the idea.
“The library staff and the planning departments really grabbed on to it … They did almost everything … from turning my sort of vague idea into a really nice resource,” Linnane said. “There may be a lot of ideas, but they have to make them work and they’re wonderful at it.”
One of the benefits of collaboration is that the CIC project was completed at minimal cost to the village.
“This is why the collaboration is so great,” Linnane said. “We have people from DPW who helped build the kiosk, and staff from the village who see this as another duty, and it’s true of the staff at the library too, so very little cost.” However, Linnane hopes that providing information is not the CIC’s only purpose.
“Not only does this project help so people can get information, but it also tunes people into what’s new … People can be walking into the library and see that we have a civic information center and begin to think about [it],” Linnane said. “Not only will they access the information in a very timely ways, but maybe it will help them start asking questions about it, and also generate conversations … It’ll help to support conversations that … are based on fact.”
The future of the CIC is looking well, with new ideas and uses for the project already taking place. “At some point it will become interactive too so that people can leave feedback … and it could be one of the places in the village where people could respond to highlights of the budget, taxes, reconstruction projects, … [things] that you might be interested in as a village resident,” Linnane said.
In addition to the Library CIC, the thought to the idea expanding throughout the community has been discussed.
“One of the things that happens on all our collaborations is that there’s always a discussion on who could our collaborators be, so new partners will be engaged as they become interested … and the Shorewood schools will probably be one,” Linnane said.
Davis agreed. “It’s not a bad idea, but I’d want to … let the library use it for a little bit to see what the most pertinent information is and what would be most relevant for students,” Davis said.
Overall, both collaborators and residents agree that the CIC has brought an ease of access to residents. “I think it’s a good fit for Shorewood, because we’re a very engaged place where people have many opportunities to be engaged with the civic process, and this is just another one of those, so … I think that it’s a really interesting and fun initiative,” Passey said. “It’s been great to collaborate and I’m excited to think that we at the library will have more knowledge and village documents and be able to help our Shorewood citizens access that knowledge.”