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Wisconsin Library Association Annual Conference
Panel Discussion on Library Governance Options and Wider Units
November 1, 2006
9:00 – 10:15 a.m.
Sponsors: Library Research Round Table, Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries

This session emphasized library governance options projects in Scott County, Iowa, and Dane and Waukesha counties, Wisconsin. 

Participants Similar Studies Articles and Links
Wisconsin District Legislation Tom Hennen's Remarks  




Julie Chase has been the Director of Dane County Library Service Director for over 25 years.  The County Library Service was created in 1966 in order to assure legal access to public library services for every resident of Dane County. The Dane County Library Service also serves as a coordinating agency for all public libraries in Dane County, providing support services such as interlibrary loan and delivery for these libraries, as well as outreach services to any resident outside the city of Madison, and bookmobile service for those communities distant from existing public libraries.

 Thomas J. Hennen, Jr., Waukesha County Federated Library System Director.  Hennen has been a librarian for over 30 years.  He is presently the director of Waukesha County Federated Library System in Wisconsin, and previously directed library systems elsewhere in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Hennen is the author of Hennens’ American Public Library ratings (HAPLR), which uses data provided by 9,000 public libraries to create comparative rankings.  Hennen has published more than 50 articles on a wide range of topics, including library futures, standards and accounting.  His book for Neal-Schuman, Hennen’s Public Library Planner, was published in April 2004.

Ethel Himmel has been consulting full-time since 1991. She and Bill Wilson are the partners for Himmel and Wilson Library Consultants.  Her Bachelor's degree in Political Science is from the University of Illinois and her Master's degree in Library Science is from the University of Wisconsin. Ethel's Ph.D. in Library Science is also from UW. Before returning to the University to attain her doctorate, she served as the Deputy Director of the La Crosse (WI) Public Library.

Jennifer Wilding, project director Consensus.  Wilding was the author of Making Book: Gambling on the  Future of Our Libraries, a Consensus white paper about the structure and funding of libraries in metro Kansas City.  Wilding combines an understanding of library structure and funding with broad knowledge of public policy and 20 years of experience writing for the public.  In addition, she is a recognized leader in civic engagement.  She directs the KC Forums project for Consensus, which has conducted projects with MacNeil/Lehrer Productions and the Kettering Foundation.  She provides research and communications, process design and facilitation/training services for a variety of clients. 

Bill Wilson started consulting part-time in 1987 and has been a full-time consultant since 1996.  He and Ethel Himmel are the partners for Himmel and Wilson Library Consultants. Before assuming his career as a full-time consultant Bill served as Wisconsin's State Librarian. Bill's Bachelor's degree is from Gordon College (MA) and his Master's degree in Library Science is from S.U.N.Y-Buffalo. Bill has completed additional graduate work at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in Library Science and Urban and Regional Planning. 


Tom Hennen's Remarks

We are looking at library governance options because of disagreements in our federated library system over capital cost distributions.  Gershwin’s famous tune asked “How long has this been going on???”

 In some ways it’s been going on for nearly a quarter of a century, the very start of our federated library system.  The 20% of the taxpayers in the county that choose or happen to live in communities without libraries pay a state authorized tax for library services.  That law is silent or fuzzy on the level of payment.  It neither requires nor precludes capital as part of the equation. 

 As a result, when the city of Waukesha (or any library community in the count) sets out to build a new building City taxpayers are the only ones to pay for it even though county-taxed non-residents borrow as much as 45% of the materials. 

 In 2004 we tried to include building costs in a very moderate manner and got shot down (vetoed) by a county executive.  The only way to proceed, it seemed, was to confront things head on. 

  Why Dane and Waukesha (tried Milwaukee too)

 What about Scott County – Motivation more from state level than from county

  • Don’t cooperate
  • Cooperate
  • Unify

 How to cooperate better…

Important question for us in Waukesha also!


What I want YOU to do:

  • Support District legislation

  • Support ALF

  • Understand that elected officials are doing their job when they ask hard questions

  • Be willing to ask hard questions yourself about your library or system

  • Push consultants to answer the questions

  • Ask me hard questions in the Q&A

 Think about how long has this been going on in your area?





System voted down by County board : Cows don’t read


System endorsed but capital explicitly excluded


Change in county funding formula – issue was net lending but ALSO CAPITAL


Finley Elected as first Waukesha Co. Exed


Best fit funding formula – Crossover but still not capital

Spring 2003

Act 150 Report finished Veto threatened for Capital Costs

Summer 2003

Capital Cost Committee appointed instead

March 2004

Capital Cost proposal to county board

July 2004

25 to 9 County Board endorsement of Capital Costs (Veto proof??)  $350 K

August 2004

Veto by County Executive sustained – In 16 years in office, Finley has never had a veto overridden.   Taxation without Representation rhetoric plus talk show blitz  "Given more time, library backers could probably have countered the sound bite disinformation, but with the radio attacks coming in the morning and the vote that evening, there was never a chance,"

October 2004

Executive budget presentation listed 4 priorities for the future, consolidation of libraries being one of them.

October 2004

Mayor, Finance Committee Chair, Ameel, me. Enough of this, lets get the plan and either consolidate or put the issue to rest once and for all…

October 2004

WCME Resolution on Library Governance Options Study

November 2004

WCCC proposal 

Feb 2005??

IMLS grant denied

June 2005 ??

RFP Issued

Aug 2005

RFP Awarded

Sept. 2005

Himmel and Wilson begin study

April 2006

Act 150 Report to county board with Capital Costs included 31 to 1 Vote WITH capital costs!  -- NO VETO THREAT!

October 30, 2006

WCCC presentation



Nov 16, 2006

Act 150 reconvenes to consider LGO Report











 Libraries Together (Scott County Iowa).  In January 2006 a team headed by Jennifer Wilding of KC Consensus and including Tom Hennen  on forms of library governance in the Quad Cities area of Iowa.  See:  http://www.librariestogether.org/news.htm

 Library Governance Options Study for Waukesha County.  Himmel & Wilson Library Consultants began the year long study of funding and governance options for Waukesha County in September of 2005.  The results of the study are available at: http://www.wcfls.lib.wi.us/lgo/index.htm

 Dane County Futures Work Group.  The purpose of the work group is to provide the framework in which to educate ourselves and our colleagues in Dane County about the various organizational options for library service within Dane County. Himmel and Wilson Library Consultants are conducting a governance options study in parallel with Waukesha County.  This link covers the background of the study and parts of the consultants’ work to date. When the study is done, the results will be available here:  http://www.scls.lib.wi.us/dcl/FuturesWorkGroup.html


Related Articles and Links

 Are Wider Library Units Wiser?  An article by Thomas J. Hennen Jr. appeared in the June/July 2002 issue of American Libraries, the official publication of the American Library Association.  These pages provide the text of the article and expand on it:  http://www.haplr-index.com/wider_and_wiser_units.htm

 "Is There a Library Consolidation in Your Future?" an article by Thomas J. Hennen Jr. in the October 2005 edition of American Libraries.  See: http://www.haplr-index.com/AmericanLibraries2005Unification.pdf

 "Building Bridges through Consensus," article in the August 2006 issue of American Libraries by Jennifer Wilding and Tom Hennen.  See: http://www.haplr-index.com/building_bridges_through_consens.htm

 Making Book: A Kansas City Consensus Study.  In 2003 Tom Hennen assisted Jennifer Wilding of Consensus in a project to investigate the need for wider units of service in the greater Kansas City area.  The results were published in spring of 2004.  http://www.haplr-index.com/MakingBook.htm

"The Challenge of Wider Library Units," in Library Journal.  September 15, 2004.  Pg. 36-38. Thomas Hennen and Jennifer Wilding explore the options related to library districts within the specific context of the KC Consensus study on library services in the Kansas City area. 


WLA District Legislation

 Proposed bill that did not pass in the last session: http://www.wla.lib.wi.us/legis/DistrictLeg.pdf

A subcommittee of the LD&L Committee is working on getting a bill introduced in the 2007-09 session. Across Wisconsin, our tradition of extensive access to local libraries is threatened, and some Wisconsin citizens have actually been denied access to nearby local libraries. While we support adequate funding to ensure access, an interim step of permissive legislation is requested. The district library legislation would enable citizens, through referenda, to establish a taxing district for library service. The board of such districts would be elected by the citizens living within the district boundaries. http://www.wla.lib.wi.us/legis/districts.htm

Updated November 2006

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