By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Oct 20, 2022 at 1:28 PM

Up on the second floor of the 1954-55 Grassold & Johnson-designed addition to the Central Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., is a new Milwaukee Public Library space that hosted a grand opening on Thursday.

Commons signX

The Business Commons is a flexible co-working area with charging ports in much of the seating, free wifi, hot spots, a scanner, printers, desktop computers, laptops, Chromebooks, semi-private conference rooms, business librarians and, of course, access to everything the library has in its collections, to inspire and accommodate remote working and study, networking and collaboration and more.

It is located along the west side of the room, with windows looking out over 9th Street.


“There had been a large collection of card catalogs in the space and once we went digital, it was just kind of empty,” says MPL’s Eileen Force Cahill.

“It was funded privately and programming for it is covered by the MPL Foundation.”

The new space – which was completed in March and had a soft opening on June 6 – was funded by a gift of the Schoenleber Foundation and Elaine C. Lange. It was designed by Zimmerman Architectural Studios, Inc.


In 2000, the 34,500-square-foot space underwent a $2.3 million renovation, which was the first phase in an $8.3 million MPL Foundation campaign in 2001 to overhaul the entire Central Library, the main structure of which was designed in 1895 by Ferry & Clas.

The Business Commons sits within the library’s Business, Science and Technology Department, where folks may remember a robust periodicals department.

The Business, Science and Technology Department collection includes everything from patents and trademarks to census data to information on horticulture, nature and agriculture, to directories of drugs, health care manufacturers and hospitals and more.

semi-private spaceX

In Periodicals, you can find historic newspapers, current magazines and newspapers, indexes and abstracts, and more.

In the spirit of the library’s many decades of adaptation to changes in the world of information and technology, here are some photos of the second floor space both "then" and now...

Then (1959-1973)

Periodicals deskX
Library stacksX
Bound newspapersX
Library magazine racksX


service deskX
Sentinel index
The Sentinel index is still in a card catalog format.

(Historical photos courtesy of Milwaukee Public Library.)

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.