Merlin Membership

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Merlin Overview

Merlin is a consortium of libraries sharing an integrated library system (ILS) to process, circulate and display library resources for the public in an expanded interactive union catalog. Features of the Merlin catalog include requesting and renewing items from member libraries to be picked up at a chosen library. Searches can be limited by location, age level, or item format. 

Libraries in an ILS share a telecommunications network, a hardware platform and library application software. Merlin was established for the purpose of facilitating resource sharing and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of library services in northern Wisconsin. Merlin is a service program of Northern Waters Library Service (NWLS) for libraries in Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Sayner, Vilas and Washburn Counties.

The following information is available to Merlin consortium members through the staff login:

Governance • Finance • News • Software • Statistics • Meetings • Products

Advantages of Merlin

There are many advantages of a shared ILS, including:

  • provides a means to achieve statewide resource sharing requirements
  • provides access to a wider scope of quality materials
  • enables quicker access to materials
  • helps to reduce overall costs and work load for members
  • provides a means to leverage available resources and shared costs across participating libraries
  • helps to strengthen communication and cohesiveness among members
  • provides high quality centralized services
  • establishes a shared database managed centrally for quality control


Merlin members include the following libraries from the NWLS service area: 

Ashland County: Vaughn Public Library (Ashland); Madeline Island Public Library; Legion Memorial Library (Mellen)

Bayfield County: Bayfield Carnegie Library; Forest Lodge Library (Cable); Drummond Public Library; Evelyn Goldberg Briggs Memorial Library (Iron River); Washburn Public Library

Burnett County: Grantsburg Public Library; Larsen Family Library (Webster); 

Douglas County: Superior Public Library and the following branches: Imogene McGrath Memorial Library (Lake Nebagamon); Joan Salmen Memorial Library (Solon Springs)

Iron County: Hurley Public Library; Mercer Public Library

Sawyer County: Hayward Carnegie Library; Winter Public Library; Lac Courtes Oreilles Ojibwa Community College

Vilas County: Boulder Junction Public Library; Olson Memorial Library (Eagle River); Lac du Flambeau Public Library; Land O’ Lakes Public Library; Koller Memorial Library (Manitowish Waters); Presque Isle Community Library; Phelps Public Library; Plum Lake Public Library (Sayner); Winchester Public Library

Washburn County: Shell Lake Public Library; Spooner Memorial Library

NWLS and one school library also use Merlin for automation purposes.


Combined, the membership currently boasts 1.41 million circs, over 188,000 items loaned, nearly 197,000 items received, and approximately 95,000 registered borrowers.  The current catalog contains approximately 393,000 titles and 773,000 holdings.  

The types of materials patrons will find in the catalog now include: books (hardcover, paperback, and large print), audiobooks (on cassette, CD, and Playaways), music (on cassette and CD), films (on videocassette, DVD, and Blu-Ray DVD), kits, newspapers, maps, music and vocal scores, government documents, computer software, digital media, and other miscellaneous items (like art prints, puppets, puzzles, and games).


Costs for joining Merlin and the annual membership fees vary depending on a library’s level of participation. Membership fees contribute toward the costs of telecommunications, record maintenance, hardware and software maintenance, training, troubleshooting, and automation staff.   

Costs for joining Merlin include the start-up costs plus the annual costs.  The license portion of the start-up cost is applied to the Merlin Capital Fund.  Remaining years cover only annual costs.  Ninety percent of the annual Merlin budget comes from membership fees and ten percent comes from NWLS.

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