Reporting 2014 Reference Transactions

Wisconsin participates in the Public Libraries Survey (PLS) by compiling and submitting annual report data to the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS). Every year the State Librarians vote whether to adopt proposed changes that add, revise, or remove data elements. For the 2014 annual report that libraries will be preparing in early 2015, the definition of reference transactions has been updated to include the types of questions that librarians answer regarding technology:

Reference Transactions are information consultations in which library staff recommend, interpret, evaluate, and/or use information resources to help others to meet particular information needs.

A reference transaction includes information and referral service as well as unscheduled individual instruction and assistance in using information sources (including web sites and computer-assisted instruction). Count Readers Advisory questions as reference transactions.

Information sources include (a) printed and non-printed material; (b) machine-readable databases (including computer-assisted instruction); (c) the library's own catalogs and other holdings records; (d) other libraries and institutions through communication or referral; and (e) persons both inside and outside the library.

If a contact includes both reference and directional services, it should be reported as one reference transaction. Duration should not be an element in determining whether a transaction is a reference transaction.

NOTE: Do not include directional transactions (giving instruction for locating staff, library users, or physical features within the library.) Examples of directional transactions include, “Where is the reference librarian? Where is Susan Smith? Where is the rest room? Where are the 600s? Can you help me make a photocopy?”

If an annual count of reference transactions is unavailable, reference transactions can be counted during a typical week or weeks (a week in which the library is open its regular hours and is neither unusually busy nor unusually slow), and multiplied to represent an annual estimate. [If the sample is done four times a year, multiply totals by 13, if done twice a year multiply by 26, if done only annually, multiply by 52.]

National Library Week

In honor of National Library Week, CNN asked people to share photos of their favorite libraries from around the world and describe what makes the library special. 


Robert Dawson was also featured for his twenty year project dedicated to photographing American libraries, including the Forest Lodge Library in Cable! Dawson recently published "The Public Library: A photographic Essay" with essays and hundreds of photographs. Toni Morrison writes: "Robert Dawson's work is an irrefutable argument for the preservation of public libraries. His book is profound and heartbreakingly beautiful." Visit NPR to lisiten to an interview of Dawson for the Saturday Weekend Edition.


Americans strongly value the role of public libraries in their community, according to findings by the Pew Research Center. 94% of people polled in 2013 said that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community. Despite enduring budget cutbacks and challenges to incorporate modern technology and digital literacy services, there's been an increase in the use of public libraries in the U.S. over the past decade. Libraries are information hotspots; they are places communities can gather; and they provide learning collaboration.

4.04 Day Addresses Concerns with CIPA

4.04 Day on Friday, April 4th called attention to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) that requires Internet filtering in schools and libraries that choose to accept e-rate discounts or Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants for their Internet access. Unfortunately, filtering technology is costly, ineffective and leads to inequity of information access to constitutionally-protected speech that runs counter to the ideals of public libraries.

A 404 Day digital teach-in provided an in-depth discussion of the issues, featuring: Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association; Chris Peterson from MIT's Center for Civic Media and the National Coalition Against Censorship; and Sarah Houghton, blogger and Director of the San Rafael Public Library in Northern California. Librarians, researchers, teachers, and students joined in with feedback throughout the day with posts illustrating the personal and social harms of censorship under CIPA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a video resource from the event that covers a basic understanding of problems CIPA creates.

NWLS Digital Media in Review

2013 marked a year of big changes and growing usage of the digital media collections. BadgerLink and Wisconsin's Digital Library both offer Wisconsin residents free access to extensive digital resources.

BadgerLink provides an EBSCOhost ebook database of about 250,000 nonfiction titles for full-text viewing or downloading. Access the EBSCO ebook collection by clicking the EBSCO "Database List" link in BadgerLink, then choose the "eBook Collection" link from the list. Activity on the EBSCOhost ebooks has fallen steadily over the last few years.

Wisconsin's Digital Library offers an OverDrive database of about 65,950 ebooks, 20,700 audiobooks, 320 videos, and 250 music titles. Ebook circulation has shown the most dramatic increase of all digital formats (from 19,561 in 2012 to 46,351 in 2013). OverDrive support for Kindle ebooks resulted in 52% of the ebook circulations. The highest circulating ebook title in 2012 was "Gone Girl.” Audiobook circulation totaled 16,692, up 36% from 2012. "The Hunger Games" was the highest circulating title for a second year in a row. Circulation for both music and video formats dropped somewhat from the previous year. The music collection had 19 checkouts and the video collection had 46 checkouts.

New in 2013 was the OverDrive Advantage program funded by NWLS to give member library patrons exclusive access to additional titles purchased to reduce waiting time. To access Advantage titles users need to sign in before browsing the catalog.


This year OverDrive has developed a new site just for kids that complements the main digital library site. The eReading Room for Kids and Teens is a destination where they can search for juvenile and young adult titles on their own website. To learn more about the new features visit Wisconsin's Digital Library.

Trends in Library Reporting Data

Results of the data reported to the state by NWLS libraries this year show consistent trends that follow what we have seen for a few years. Overall, from 2012 to 2013, circulation saw a slight drop and resource sharing has fallen slightly as well. Operating revenues and materials expenditures (directly related to the items added to library collections) decreased. Programs offered remained close to the same as the previous year; however attendance at those programs dropped slightly. The number of new registered borrowers fell but some purging of outdated records could account for this drop. Some libraries reported an increase in hours and staffing. The demand for electronic resources has been rising, especially for electronic books, with the exception of WorldCat databases which reported a modest decrease in searches tracked, and a slight decrease in sessions.

The information below provides a quick comparison of system-wide data from 2012 to 2013.

• Hours open fell 1%
• Registered borrowers fell 4%
• Circulation fell 5%
• Interlibrary loans fell 1%
• Interlibrary borrows fell 4%
• Public programs held rose 3%
• Public program attendance fell 1/2%
• Public Internet workstations rose 4%
• Internet use fell 24% (this drop may be due to seven libraries reporting no data)
• Electronic media usage nearly doubled from the previous year
• Electronic media users remained steady
• Total library funding fell 1%
• Materials expenditures fell 2%
• Total items added fell 14%

Librarians Love the Communities They Serve

Librarians love the communities they serve and want to serve them to the best of their abilities. At the core of public library service is the belief in free access to information-that no one should be denied information because he or she cannot afford the cost of a book, a periodical, a Web site or access to information in any of its various formats. Libraries are great democratic institutions that serve people of every age, income level, location, ethnicity or physical ability, and provide the full range of information resources needed to live, learn, govern, and work. Because libraries bring free access to all, they also bring opportunity to all.

Library Bandwidth Upgrade

Through a restructuring of the TEACH discount program that provides broadband connections to schools and libraries, public libraries and systems will receive a much-needed boost in bandwidth this year, including fiber optic installation to most locations.

Planning for the library fiber upgrade has been underway since mid-2013 and is part of enhancing the state’s BadgerNet broadband network. Nearly all public libraries will receive an increase in capacity, often from three to five times as fast, as part of the program upgrade. DPI and Public Library Development staff worked with the Department of Administration’s TEACH staff to restructure the current program within the existing contract terms to boost capacity without increasing the monthly charge to libraries. E-Rate program discounts will substantially help fund the upgrades.

As part of the upgrade project, fiber connections will be run to nearly 350 library locations, preparing those sites for higher capacity under future BadgerNet contracts. The fiber installation will begin this April and should be completed for approximately 350 libraries by November. Preliminary site visits and installation will be coordinated through Wisconsin’s 17 regional public library systems.

Telecommunication carriers provide the BadgerNet connections. The network is under the general management of the Department of Administration (DOA). Approximately 75 percent of the state’s school districts and 95 percent of its libraries have a connection to BadgerNet. As a result of the fiber project, libraries will get a 10Mbps BadgerNet connection for $100 per month and up to 100Mbps for $250 per month. Currently, only 8.5 percent of the state’s libraries have Internet connection speeds above 10Mbps. All of the state’s 17 regional library systems also will receive significant broadband increases.

The full text of the DPI press release is available here, including a preliminary list of sites:

Libraries Bring Communities Together

From Racine Public Library Director Jessica McPhail, for the National Journal - At a time when more information is moving online and into digital formats, our patrons highly value free access to books and the range of resources and programs available at the library. As a library director, I see students, parents, and readers turn to the library when they need homework help, children's books, historical information, or research assistance. Demand for library services has increased steadily over the past few years. According to an American Library Association study, public demand for digital training and technology classes increased 36 percent from 2011 to 2012, while the demand for public Internet-connected computers increased 60 percent. New research from the Pew Research Center finds that 95 percent of Americans agree that libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed. By offering learning materials, assistance from librarians, a safe and welcoming public space, and a range of programs, libraries contribute to our quality of life.  read full article

Restore Net Neutrality

The President’s pledge to close the great digital divide and upgrade access to the digital age for all Americans has been jeopardized by a recent federal court ruling (Verizon vs. FCC).  On January 14 the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet policies pertaining to "Net Neutrality" were overturned because ISPs have not been classified as "common carriers.” Under Net Neutrality every site on the internet is equally accessible to the user. At best, the president's goal of equal access could now be delayed for a few years during an appeals process. At worst, low-income and rural areas could become second-class citizens of the digital age:

•    ISPs could charge companies for access to its users.
•    ISPs could charge users for access to certain services.
•    ISPs could technically censor/block the sites its customers visit.
•    Internet companies could create a tiered pricing system for certain types of online traffic, similar to purchasing premium channels from cable providers.  

Barbara Stripling, President of the American Library Association who served as the director of library programs for 1,700 New York City schools, is concerned that public libraries — and the communities they serve — will be the ones to lose; "Americans rely upon public availability of government services, licensed databases, job-training videos, medical and scientific research, and many other essential services."  Stripling warns that the hardest hit would be students and rural residents lacking access to computers or updated technology. According to a 2013 report in The Washington Post, fewer than 20 percent of the nation's educators believe that the Internet connections at their schools meet their teaching needs.


To join a petition to restore Net Neutrality visit the White House website “We the People” created to identify issues with strong support. The Net Neutrality petition urges the President to direct the FCC to classify ISPs as "common carriers" so that the words of the FCC chairman may be fulfilled: “I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment.”

OverDrive Plans Upgrade for Audiobooks

OverDrive, the vendor of digital books for Wisconsin's Digital Library, has announced that it will be moving away from the WMA format and making audiobooks for the library market available solely as MP3s. Reasons for the shift include the popularity of the MP3 format. The WMA format is not compatible with iOS, Mac and Android devices. Sunsetting WMA formats will enable access through the OverDrive app to all audiobooks on all major audiobook playing devices, including iPod, iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, Windows devices, Macs and more.  


MP3s are the vast majority of the company’s audiobook collection, including titles from Hachette, Penguin Group, Random House (Books on Tape and Listening Library), HarperCollins, AudioGo, Blackstone, Tantor Media, and more. While OverDrive has not announced a firm date for the change, the company will be communicating with customers about transitioning sales and inventory from WMA to MP3. In the event that some titles can't be upgrade, an alternate solution will be offered to make up for the lost titles. For more information visit OverDrive Blogs.