Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Library usage up; state support critical to providing service

Over the last five years, public library visits in Wisconsin increased by more than 10 percent, circulation of library materials increased by 15 percent, yet paid library staff per capita decreased by 2 percent, a testament to the efficiency of Wisconsin’s public libraries and library systems in providing service in this time of economic need.

Wisconsin’s 385 independent public libraries have all voluntarily joined a public library system. The systems are regional library organizations created to improve public library services, increase Wisconsin residents’ access to library materials and services, and reduce duplication. In fact, Wisconsin is first in the nation in per capita interlibrary loan, which saves taxpayers an estimated $100 million by sharing rather than purchasing more copies of library materials.

Library system funding is the state’s primary program to support public library service statewide. The state’s 17 federated library systems are sharing $16.7 million in state aid for 2011. They recently received the first of two aid payments for the year.

“Public libraries are focused on service to their communities,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “State aid to public library systems is critical in providing these services in an efficient manner and is a sound return on investment for Wisconsin taxpayers.”

Library systems use funds according to plans developed and adopted by regional boards to meet the needs of each public library system area. Library system services include:
  • ensuring that system residents have complete access to all public libraries within thesystem area. State residents made 35.8 million visits to public libraries and checked out 65.6 million items in 2009, both increased from the previous year.
  • coordinating the sharing of library materials among participating libraries to meet user needs. Annually, libraries loan nearly 9 million items to each other in response to users’ requests. System-supported delivery networks deliver interlibrary loan items.
  •  providing training and continuing education for local library staff to help them offer the best possible service to their communities.
  • coordinating cooperative library technology projects. About 93 percent of the state’s
  • public libraries now participate in shared computer systems that offer users on-line catalog access to regional library holdings. All public libraries provide the public with the use of computers with high-speed Internet connections and 95 percent of the state’s public libraries provide free wireless access for laptop users in the library.
All Wisconsin public libraries provide access to jobs databases and other job opportunity resources. Nearly 90 percent of libraries offer technology training and more than 70 percent of libraries help users complete online job applications. In nearly half of Wisconsin communities, the public library is the only place that offers free access to computers and the Internet.

“Libraries are a vital resource to those seeking employment,” Evers noted. “All of our libraries are helping patrons search for jobs, update resumes, and improve employability skills. Additionally, many are working with Job Service staff and other organizations to offer assistance to the unemployed and underemployed. Wisconsin receives great value by supporting its public libraries.”

Complete press release

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