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Growing the reach and value of Milwaukee's largest library system

MPL Foundation is the private-public foundation that helps Milwaukee Public Library raise revenue and find grants for the programs that resonate with residents.


Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) is funded by taxpayers, but only to a certain extent. The positioning of the library as trusted curators of learning and creators of experience gives MPL an opportunity to help a wider array of people with dynamic programming and events. 

Milwaukee Public Library Foundation (MPLF) is what helps MPL build this dynamism by directly raising money and writing grants that lead to programs. One example was how MPLF wrote an NEA Our Town grant that funded the GASP program that created an artist-in-residence program at Mitchell branch, taught kids and adults how to make their own books, created a Deaf StorySlam with Ex Fabula and created a permanent home for a placemaking exhibition from Sonja Thompson and Adam Carr.

event with people, preferably from the GASP program


The idea of a private-public foundation is difficult to understand by itself, and MPLF needed a site that could explain its story and show the needs and values a of dynamic library like MPL. The site also needed to detail the success of the efforts MPLF, and help in its effort to promote its own events to raise money.

We found through multiple conversations that few people had any idea there was a difference between MPL and MPLF, or that there was even a need for a foundation. MPLF's brand was basically MPL's brand, so we needed to first find a distinct set of imagery and illustrations that showed that difference. Exploring multiple ideas, we decided a collage / patchwork could illustrate the dynamism MPLF brings, and a second under-layer of illustration and print/color blocks helps connect the institution of MPL to the Foundation.

home pages with top collage and mission illustration

Working with MPLF, we also decided on a more explorable long-page system that allows people to more easily scroll and see the patchwork of events and efforts that MPLF has been involved with. We've been tracking usage, and we've found a substantial increate of "pages" read by people using the long-page versus the traditional page-per-idea system most sites use.


The long page system is a bit confusing for search engines. It mixes a lot of different ideas on what seems like one page, and makes content hierarchy difficult. While it wasn't necessary to solve this -- the content works fine on its own -- didn't want the site to be slightly less visible in search. We created a hybrid page / long page approach that allows a search index to find the same content hierarchy of a more traditional site.