Waukesha County Federated Library Sysem (WCFLS)
Tom Hennen was the Director of this 16-member library system from 1999 until his retirement in 2013. Waukesha, a county of nearly 500,000 adjacent to Milwaukee County merged with adjacent Jefferson County to become Bridges Library System in 2016. Hennen’s experience with long range planning for the system as well as its member libraries helped lead to his planning book, and the founding of Hennen Library Consulting.
For Hennen, being active in the Wisconsin Library Association included serving on the association’s legislative committee, including as its chair in 2004. He served on a number of state committees as well. This included chairing the Library Services and Construction Act committee in charge of awarding federal grants in the state. It also included chairing the System and Resource Library Administrators’ Association of Wisconsin (SRLAAW) group from 1992 to 1996. These and other library legislative activities provided valuable exerience that he brings to Hennen Library Consulting. They also taught important lessons on the importance of a legislative framework for achieving goals in a library system.
For instance, the framework provided by legislation that passed in 1998 allowed for the strategic planning outlined in the “Act 150” Planning section of this site. Even legislation that does not pass can provide valuable experience and expertise. The district library legislation discussed later was a good example of that for Hennen.
In the late 1990s the Wisconsin Library Community managed to get a Legislative Council appointed to study library issues. Recommendations to the full Legislature from Legislative Councils are much more likely to result in state laws than those from library associations or individuals. At the suggestion of the state library agency, Hennen was invited to present testimony to this committee on its opening day. There were many issues to address. The library community sought a number of things from this study committee:
- County-wide or regional system planning lacked statutory authority, making it hard to set standards or plan services.
- The structure of county property taxes for communities with and without libraries resulted in many perceived inequities.
- State funding had been falling for years and the library community sought a major change in state support.
Not surprisingly the legislature adopted statutory language on numbers 1 and 2 that had no state budget impact but balked at number 3. Speaking of the states grand heritage of library service Hennen included in his oral testimony the following from his written report, Invited Testimony on Libraries to Wisconsin Legislative Study Committee.
“We owe it to the next generation to pass on this [Free Library} heritage, improved and expanded. Arguments over who should pay, and how much, for the public library lunch have bedeviled library planners for over a century. Each generation has developed partial answers and left the most difficult problems unsolved, passing them on to future legislatures, local officials, and library planners. Those accumulated problems have now reached nearly a critical mass. The very existence of this committee may well be the best proof of that proposition. I have been told that the legislature works on the wise principle of: “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” A legislative council is charged with fixing problems by statutory remedy. Things must be deemed broken, or there would not be a legislative council.”
As mentioned, even legislation that does not pass can teach important lessons as we learned from the district legislation attempt in Wisconsin in 2004. Hennen wrote the outline for WLA report, Public Library District Enabling Legislation in Wisconsin.
The pending legislation led libraries througout the state to look at district options. Hennen became involved in many of these options studies in the state as well as the nation. Even though the legislation did not pass, The Pewaukee joint library plan listed below was paritally the result of the failed legislation.
- Pewaukee LRP 2003-05: Tom Hennen’s report on successful merger of 2 municipalities into a single joint library district in Wisconsin while he was Director of Waukesha County Federated Library System.
- Racine County Governance 2004 Hennen Library Consulting study
- Greenfield_Greendale_District Hennen Library Consulting Study
- Making Book: Gambling on the future of our libraries. (Metro Kansas City)
- Libraries Together: Scott County Iowa
- WCCLS Funding & Governance: Washington County Cooperative Library Service (Oregon)