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 bookand the founding of Hennen Library Consulting.  

County “Act 150” Long Range Planning

Waukesha County (Population 489,891):  The planning process is based on legislation (Act 150) that resulted from the Wisconsin Legislative Council study that Tom Hennen helped get passed (Public Library District Enabling Legislation in Wisconsin).  The Governor signed Senate Bill 269 into law in 1998 and it became Act 150, modifying numerous sections of Chapter 43 of Wisconsin Statutes. The act:

  • Allowed counties to appoint planning committees to deal with issues relating to library services.
  • Required counties to meet minimum mill rate ($0.13 per thousand of state-equalized value) for the county library levy after 2001
  • Required specific record keeping by libraries on library circulation and use.
  • Prescribed a minimum funding distributions to libraries.  The formula definitions used differ from practices prior to 2001. Neither “crossover” nor “intersystem” funding was addressed in the legislation.
  • Allowed counties the option of setting local library standards.

Waukesha County appointed “Act 150 Committees” to do strategic long range planning every three years after the enactment of the legislation.  These committees consisted of 20 to 25 representatives from throughout the County.  Members were appointed by the County Board Chair and represented a cross section of stakeholders in the county. Membership included elected officials, librarians, trustees, and public members.

Library System Director Tom Hennen served as the facilitator for each of these 6-month long planning processes.

  • Waukesha County chose to implement standards beginning in 2002 for 2003 budget purposes.

Since Hennen left, Waukesha has expanded to a two-county system.  Both counties in the system continue the Act 150 planning committees.  The current Waukesha County plan includes a Planning History beginning on page 8 of that plan includes the history of all the plans that Hennen facilitated.

Four county library plans have been approved in Waukesha County since the adoption of the 1998 Act 150 that changed Wisconsin library law requiring county library planning.  (Excerpted from pages 8 to 11 of the 2017 -21 Waukesha County Library Services Plan as approved by the County Board of Supervisors on July 26, 2017)

2001-2003 Plan

County Board Chair James Dwyer appointed the first Act 150 Committee, chaired by Karen McNelly.  It met from September 1999 to March 2000.  The committee made 15 recommendations.  The main recommendations were:

  • Retain the current federated status of the library system;
  • Adopt a formula for collecting funds by a special county levy on the residents of the 19 communities without their own libraries;
  • Adopt a formula for distribution of this funding to 16 county libraries;
  • Adopt standards for library services;
  • Study a shared automation system for county libraries; and  Create a capital costs study committee.

The County Executive vetoed the standards provision but the standards were re-introduced with a modification and passed by the County Board in 2001, for 2002 budget purposes.

2004-2006 Plan

County Board Chair James Dwyer appointed the second Act 150 Committee, chaired by Ken Herro.  It met from September 2002 to March 2003.  The committee made 15 recommendations.  The main recommendations were:

  • Retain the current federated status of the library system;
  • Freeze the standards implementation schedule while state tax caps are in place. Lacking the freeze, the standards would have risen to the 90% level but were frozen at the 85%;
  • Require any proposed new library to demonstrate that it can and will meet the standards established for Waukesha County before it is eligible for exemption from the county library levy;
  • Retain the “Best Fit” formula for distributing to libraries the funds that are collected by a special county levy on the residents of the communities without their own libraries;
  • Create a shared automation system for county libraries; and
  • Create a capital costs study committee.

In August of 2003, the County Board approved a Capital Cost Study Committee.  The County Board approved the capital costs proposal but County Executive Finley vetoed it and the County Board sustained the veto.

2007-2011 Plan

County Board Chair James Dwyer appointed the third Act 150 Committee, chaired by Paul Kanter.  It met from September 2005 to March 2006.  The committee made 15 recommendations.  The main recommendations were:

  • Continue the standards implementation freeze;
  • Establish a committee to review the formula for distribution of funds to county libraries;
  • Encourage the CAFÉ Council to evaluate the effectiveness of the CAFÉ shared automation system and share the results with the WCFLS (Waukesha County Federated Library System) Board;
  • Encourage the strengthening and improving of one automation system shared by all libraries in the county; and
  • Defer consideration of WCFLS’ organizational form, local autonomy statement and library establishment until after the final result of the Library Governance Options report.

The committee reconvened in the fall of 2006 for consideration of these issues after the conclusion of the Library Governance Options Study.  Major recommendations were:

  • Remain a federated library system;
  • Reaffirm local library autonomy;
  • Establish a capital cost reimbursement program as included in the Act 150 report; and
  • Adopt a provision for payments to libraries in adjacent counties as required in newly enacted state law 43.12(2), also known as Act 420.

In August of 2007, the County Board approved the resulting Capital Costs proposal but County Executive Vrakas vetoed it and the County Board sustained the veto.

2008 – County Library Funding Committee

The County Board adopted the Waukesha County Library Services Plan (2007-2011) in June of 2006.  It called for a re-examination of the then-current “Best-Fit” funding distribution formula in ordinance (11-4) that had been in place since 2000.  The plan recommended that the County Board appoint a committee, chaired by County Supervisor Bill Mitchell.  The Committee met from January 2008 to April 2008.  The committee considered nine options, and its recommendations were:

  • Implement a new formula for funding year 2009. The County Board agreed and passed an ordinance to this effect in June of 2008; and
  • Appoint a new committee in three years to review the formula again for 2012 funding.

2012-2014 Plan

County Board Chair James Dwyer appointed the fourth Act 150 Committee, chaired by Richard Brandt.  It met from March to June of 2011.  The main recommendations of the committee were:

  • Conduct at least two local library-planning efforts each year of the plan;
  • Annually produce reports on member library services based on Wisconsin Library Service Record data that indicate the performance of libraries;
  • Publicize successes through the media and continue to apply for awards;
  • Remain a federated library system;
  • Continue to use the adopted funding formula set forth in the ordinance;
  • Continue to use the standards at 85% of the basic level on the voluntary standards published by the State of Wisconsin in the year 2000;
  • Continue to offer the Library Service Effort ratio targets unchanged;
  • Require that any new library demonstrate that it can and will meet standards before it is eligible for exemption from the county library levy; and
  • Reaffirm local autonomy with library system oversight on library system compliance.