Ashlee Kunkel got to share exciting news on her first day as director of the Milton Public Library.

She announced the facility was named the Wisconsin Library Association 2018 Library of the Year.

It’s the first time the library has been chosen for the award, Kunkel said. The library was nominated by a board member and received letters of support from community members; Rep. Don Vruwink, D-Milton; board members; and 8-year-old library patron Kellan Zillow.

The Wisconsin Library Association is an advocate group that supports public and academic libraries across the state. The library at UW-Parkside in Kenosha won in 2017.

The Milton library’s selection for the award was largely based on the facility and its program offerings, Kunkel said.

The library opened its new, two-story, $3.1 million facility in February 2017. it features a children’s play center, makerspace and collaborative learning spaces.

“Libraries are not just about books anymore,” Kunkel said.

The library also serves as a community center, Kunkel said. Some community groups and businesses use the space for meetings.

Programming is what Kunkel believes makes the library stand out.

The library has added 299 programs since 2015. Programming attendance increased 70 percent between 2015 and 2017, according to a news release.

Library staff wants its programming to offer people something new, Kunkel said. For example, next week the library will offer teens a workshop on how to make noodles from scratch.

The library is on track to meet or exceed last year’s visitor total, Kunkel said.

In 2017, the library had 87,547 visitors.

So far, 71,304 people have visited the library in 2018.

As the library’s new director, Kunkel wants to continue the library’s excellence and attract more visitors, she said.

Her first day as director was Sept. 21. She replaced Lisa Brooks, who resigned in August.

Kunkel has worked at the library for nine years, she said.

She started working in circulation, then became the teen librarian and most recently was the assistant director.

Brooks did a great job building the staff and moving the library into the future, Kunkel said.

Kunkel said the library will continue to improve.

“We are not going to plateau,” Kunkel said.

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