Wisconsin’s library system law, providing funding for coordinated regional library services, officially went into effect in 1971 when Senate Bill 47 was signed into law (1971 Act 152). The creation of public library systems fostered the establishment of a strong network of resource sharing and mutually beneficial interdependence. The actual creation and development of public library systems in Wisconsin was a voluntary and gradual process. No county or public library is required to be a member of a library system; yet, as of this writing, all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties and more than 380 public libraries are library system members. Wisconsin’s 17 public library systems developed in distinct ways in response to the needs of their member libraries and area residents.
While changes in society, resources, and technologies have created new demands and opportunities for systems, the law and services required of them as well as many of their practices are still relatively unchanged from the original law. The library community—the systems, libraries, and the legislature—has recognized the need to update what is required of library systems as well as to redesign the services in a manner that is more efficient and effective.
The Public Library System Redesign (PLSR) process is a community process to consider these changes and new models to provide system services to public libraries.
Workgroups for major service areas (Continuing Education and Consulting; Resource Library Services; Technology; Collections; Interlibrary Loan and ILS/Discovery; Delivery; and Chapter 43) will explore the current Wisconsin public library system landscape, look at other models and determine the best ways to deliver the best services to Wisconsin Public Library patrons.
This is a multi-year process. The workgroups will offer recommendations for models to the Steering Committee in Winter 2017 and the Steering Committee will present their recommendations to DPI in Spring 2018.
In the development of the biennial budget for 2014-15, the Legislature’s Committee on Joint Finance (JFC) proposed a study to be conducted by the Department of Administration in consultation with the Department of Public Instruction, to look for efficiencies and opportunities where technology might afford savings. That recommendation was vetoed by the governor, who stated that the DPI has the authority to conduct such a study. In 2013, the System and Resource Library Administrators’ Association of Wisconsin (SRLAAW) conducted a self-examination and report, and in 2014, the DPI’s Public Library Development Team, working with a consultant and a volunteer steering committee, carried out a LEAN study as recommended by the JFC.
In 2015, the Wisconsin Council on Library and Network Development (COLAND) appointed a Strategic Vision Work Group who developed a vision for library systems in the 21st century, which COLAND recommended to State Superintendent Tony Evers. The recommendations included an outline of the process which is currently being undertaken.
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) appointed a group of library leaders from library systems and public libraries of varying sizes and areas of the state to the project Steering Committee for the purpose of reviewing and guiding potential changes to Wisconsin’s Public Library Systems.
Using Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) funds, the Steering Committee, after a RFP process, hired WiLS, a non-profit membership organization that facilitates collaborative projects and services, to provide project management services.
Workgroups were formed around the service areas identified in the LEAN study (see above), with leads, facilitators, and members representing libraries and systems of a variety of sizes and from each area of the state. The project managers are working with the workgroups to analyze current system processes, investigate other models and to make recommendations to the Steering Committee.
Work began on this project in December 2015. The first phase of work included the creation of workgroups and their work plans. The project plans were delivered to the Steering Committee and included the following: Description and charge of the workgroup; workgroup members; current expenditures for the service within the state; possible models from other states for the service area; relevant Wisconsin library law to be considered as service is redesigned; work plan and budget. The project plans were presented to the Steering Committee in April 2016. Workgroups began meeting and started activities in May 2016.
Workgroups presented their ideas at WLA 2016 and asked for feedback from the library community. The final phase of the PLSR project (Winter 2017 – Spring or 2018) will have the following major milestones:
- Topic Teams will meet and make decisions that will inform the workgroups’ models. The Topic Team decisions will be presented at WAPL 2017 (April 26-28).
- Workgroups will continue to work on their models for collaborative library services: analyzing budget data, surveying the library community, looking at past reports, and reviewing models in other states.
- The Steering Committee will spend this phase of the project creating the administrative structure for the services and will plan and be available for several outreach/feedback sessions, both in-person and virtual.
- PLSR will present a series of sessions at WLA 2017 (October 17-20) to update the community on progress and gather feedback.
- Workgroups will finalize their findings and present their reports to the Steering Committee in the Winter of 2017.
- The Steering Committee will have in-person, regional feedback sessions and will then finalize their report.
- The final PLSR report will be submitted to Dr. Evers and DPI in May of 2018.
There are currently 5 workgroups that are developing new models for cooperative services in the state around the following service areas: Collections (including electronic resources and digital collections), Consulting Services and Continuing Education, Delivery, ILL and ILS, and Technology. The workgroups created rough outlines for new models of service in late 2016, and will add details to their service models, such as staffing and budgets, over the next few months. They will continue to gather data and ask for input from the community throughout the process to help them refine their models. It is expected that the models will be finalized by February 2018.
Two additional workgroups are focusing on Wisconsin State Law relating to libraries. Chapter 43 is reviewing the Wisconsin State law that provides funding for coordinated regional library services, and will make recommendations for changes in conjunction with other workgroup recommendations. Resource Libraries, is studying and making recommendations related to how System resource libraries can best serve the needs of Wisconsin library systems, public libraries, and the patrons they serve.
While the workgroups are working independently, it’s important that the models work together to form a cohesive vision for cooperative services in the state. That’s where the topic teams come in. These teams were formed to meet for a short period of time to make decisions on specific needs affecting several service areas to help the workgroups develop cohesive service models.
Workgroups and topic teams are gathering feedback in part from the Survey Panel. The panel is made up of volunteers from all parts of the library community in Wisconsin, though most panelists are from public libraries and public library systems. Through surveys, topic teams and workgroups can gauge interest and learn what works and what might not work in their models and ideas for shared, collaborative public library services in Wisconsin.
After WLA 2016, workplans for the final phase of PLSR were created. It became increasingly clear that some workgroups had very similar and interconnected paths to follow in order to complete their work. In particular, the ILL and ILS/Discovery workgroups and the Consulting and Continuing Education Workgroups had much in common. The groups met at the start of 2017 and decided to merge, meeting together to accomplish their work while representing the needs of the service areas. All of the materials created by the individual workgroups are available on their combined webpages.
The Steering Committe is committed to keeping the PLSR process open and transparent. The project managers will ensure that this website is kept up to date through the duration of the project. Meeting agendas, minutes and documents are made available for the Steering Committee, Workgroups and Topic Teams and important information related to the project is posted to the site in a regular update message. You can subscribe to receive PLSR updates via email at the top of this page.
Information will also be shared with the Wisconsin library community through a network of library system communication liaisons, and, when appropriate, will be shared via DPI and other state-wide channels.
The public is encouraged to attend Steering Committee meetings. All meetings are posted on the PLSR Calendar. Agendas, including instructions on joining web-based meetings, are shared on the PLSR blog, with Google Communities administered by DPI, and with the PLSR Communication Liaison network. All meetings have a GoToMeeting connection.
You can email project managers at: firstname.lastname@example.org or members of the Steering Committee
- Contact members of the Steering Committee,
- Email the project managers,
- Contact workgroups directly using the Contact Form, or
- Volunteer to serve on a Survey Panel
As the workgroups continue to develop their models, they will need to gather opinions and thoughts from the library community in a systematic way. We will be using the PLSR Survey Panel for this purpose. If you join the panel, you’ll receive surveys from the workgroups and project managers. You can respond to all of them or only respond to some. It’ll be up to you! It’s a great way to be part of the process and the workgroups will appreciate your input. You can also unsubscribe from the panel at any time. Sign up with this simple form.