2013 Wisconsin Public Library Data

2013 Wisconsin Public Library Statistics have been posted by the Department of Public Instruction:

  • State totals and averages
  • Library system-wide statistics in order by system
  • County-wide statistics
  • Public library in order by municipality
  • Public library by library system and county – Includes statistics for every public library, county, and system in the state. Arrangement is alphabetical by system, then county, then by each library. County and library system totals are also provided.

Free Library Courses

Through the generous support of OCLC, the Gates Foundation, and many state library agencies across the U.S., WebJunction provides timely and relevant learning content for library staff to access anytime, from anywhere. Simply create an account at, and explore the catalog of library-focused self-paced courses and webinars. Certificates of completion are available after completing any course or webinar enrolled in from the catalog. Over the next year, WebJunction will continue to grow its catalog of learning content, and will add new resources on topics of high interest. Happy learning!

Seniors – Another Kind of Digital Divide

America’s seniors have been late adopters to the world of technology and their movement into digital life continues to deepen, according to newly released data from the Pew Research Center. The report, Older Adults and Technology Use, examines technology use by Americans ages 65 or older.

Today, 59% of seniors report they go online. The group of older Americans with relatively substantial technology assets and a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms leans toward younger, more highly educated, or more affluent seniors. The population of seniors largely disconnected from the world of digital tools and services, both physically and psychologically tends to be older and less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability). Many seniors remain disconnected from online and mobile life; 41% do not use the internet at all, 53% do not have broadband access at home, and 23% do not use cell phones. Digital engagement among seniors fall off notably for those over 75 years of age.

As the internet plays an increasingly central role in connecting Americans of all ages to news and information, government services, health resources, and opportunities for social support, these divisions are noteworthy—particularly for the many organizations (such as libraries) and individual caregivers who serve the older adult population. To read a summary of findings, or access the entire report, visit the PewResearch Internet Project.

Sharing Historical Photos

Do you represent a library, historical society or museum in a small Wisconsin town or city (population under 6,000)? Recollection Wisconsin needs your input! Our program is seeking to expand online access to photos, documents, artifacts and other historical materials from small and rural communities around the state. 

Whether your organization already has a strong digitization program in place, you’re just starting to think about going digital, or digitization is not a priority for you right now, your responses to our survey will help us improve our services to small cultural heritage organizations across Wisconsin.

Our short survey is available online and should take between 5-15 minutes to complete. Please submit your responses by Monday, June 16. Survey results will be made available online later this summer at For questions about the survey, please contact Recollection Wisconsin Program Manager Emily Pfotenhauer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-616-9756.

The Recollection Wisconsin program helps Wisconsin libraries, archives, historical societies and museums digitize and share online their unique historical collections. The program is sponsored by WiLS (Wisconsin Library Services) in partnership with the Milwaukee Public Library, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Financial support is provided by a grant from the Nicholas Family Foundation.

New OverDrive Help

OverDrive, provider of downloadable e-Books and e-Audiobooks for Wisconsin's Digital Library, recently went live with a new support interface that features a modern design, streamlined navigation options, and quick links that make it easier to get started and see how things work.  You can now search through a database of help articles, videos, compatible device profiles, and troubleshooting links. Visit the OverDrive Blogs to learn more about the new features and visit the new OverDrive Help site to experience it for yourself!

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%