By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 07, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Tippecanoe Library, 3912 S. Howell Ave., at Howard Avenue, is due for a makeover and yesterday, Milwaukee Public Library announced the selection of Engberg Anderson as the architect for the Tippecanoe project.

Though the firm was selected in a competitive process, it has an ongoing relationship with MPL, having renovated other branches. Engberg Anderson also designed the new Villard Square Library.

In addition to the Tippecanoe revamp, the city plans to pump $21.5 million into rebuilding four neighborhood libraries, including Forest Home, Mill Road, Capitol and Martin Luther King, as part of mixed-use developments, like the one currently under construction on the site of the former (and future) East Library on North Avenue.

"Our libraries are a vital part of our community – an investment in libraries is an investment in the stability of our city," said Mayor Tom Barrett in a statement issued Tuesday. "Great cities have great libraries and a thriving library system improves access to information resources, economic opportunity, literacy, education and quality of life in our neighborhoods."

Ground was broken on the current Tippecanoe library – which was designed by Milwaukee architectural firm Darby, Bogner and Associates – in November 1968. It was built at a cost of $471,400.

About 4,000 people turned out on Sunday, Nov. 16, 1969 for a dedication ceremony for the new 15,000-square foot library, illuminated not only by large windows facing the street but also by copious skylights.

One of the most instantly recognizable features of the library is Guido Brink’s hanging tri-color metal sculpture, "The Spirit of Manitou," which was there on opening day and remains in place today.

"I am absolutely thrilled to see that the Tippecanoe Library branch in my district is slated for renovations this year," says Ald. Terry L. Witkowski. "Several years back, it was rumored that Tippecanoe was in fact listed as a candidate for closure due to budget cuts. Working together with neighbors and stakeholders, we collected more than 1,000 signatures that we presented in support of maintaining services at the library.

"Fortunately, the neighborhood prevailed, and it’s obvious from this announcement that Tippecanoe is no longer anywhere near the chopping block. It’s a big part of the fabric of the neighborhood, and I look forward to seeing the new facilities and amenities that will be offered at Tippecanoe Library."

There are no renderings of the changes on tap for Tippecanoe yet. That’s because MPL will likely develop some basic concepts to share at a public meeting, probably in the next couple months. Feedback garnered there will inform the more detailed design phase. This is the same process used in developing Villard and East Libraries.

"By summer of 2015, users of our Tippecanoe branch will have a brand new library space," said MPL Director Paula Kiely in the statement. "As with Villard Square and the soon-to-open East Branch, Tippecanoe users can expect to have a 21st century environment, rich with technology and flexible spaces for interaction and community connection."

"With community input, we will create a space that Tippecanoe neighbors and library users value," said Bill Robison, lead library architect for Engberg Anderson. "We look forward to being part of such a meaningful community project."

A project manager will soon be appointed to head up the multi-year rebuilding project.

In an interesting aside, when the Milwaukee Sentinel reported on the opening of Tippecanoe library, more ink was expended on what didn’t occur than on what did.

Under a headline reading, "Political Confrontation Quiet at Library Fete," an unnamed reporter wrote, "There were no unfriendly incidents involving the mayor (Henry Maier), (Ald. Robert A.) Anderson and the crowd. Anderson, known for his hot temper in city hall, last week wrote Maier suggesting that he stay away from Sunday’s ceremony."

Anderson reportedly told the mayor that the people of the 19th ward didn’t like him.

"It is because of this favoritism and possible crowd hostility that I do not encourage you to attend this dedication," Anderson said.

However, a neighborhood group called Community 19 sent the mayor a telegram assuring him he was welcome.

"We are sure that the residents of this ward are pleased that their mayor is expected to attend," the telegram read, "and as responsible citizens would not embarrass their ward or themselves by causing political controversy at the public ceremony dedicating a facility of which we all should be proud."

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.