Governance Options Study

This page highlights the Racine County Governance Options Study  by Hennen Library Consulting.  See also:

  1. Making BookGambling on the future of our libraries. (Metro Kansas City)
  2. Libraries Together:  Scott County Iowa
  3. WCCLS Funding & GovernanceWashington County Cooperative Library Service (Oregon)
  4. Greenfield_Greendale_District  Hennen Library Consulting Study
  5. 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.

For the full report see the PDF: Racine County Governance 2004

Racine County with a population of about 200,000, is 40 miles from Milwaukee and 70 miles from Chicago.  Interstate 94 divides the county into 2 pieces; the densely populated urban and suburban area between Lake Michigan and I-94 and the sparsely populated rural and farming area to the west.  Many of the residents on the east side of I-94 commute to Milwaukee or Chicago for employment. The county has 5 libraries, the largest in Racine City with a population of 80,000.  The city is surrounded by 6 municipalities east of I-94 with 60,000 residents. These 6 municipalities are without their own libraries and served by contract from a county levy in this federated library system.  The 60,000 residents served by the 4 smaller libraries west end of the I-94 is about evenly divided between residents of library communities and non-library communities taxed by the county for library service.

Although 20 states have legislation allowing district libraries, Wisconsin is not one of them.  In 2004, when Hennen was chair of the legislative committee, the Wisconsin Library Association recommended district legislation.  The state library agency distributed competitive Library Services and Construction Act (LSTA) grants to plan for districts.  Racine Public Library received one of the grants.  The library hired Hennen to conduct a governance options and district study.  The purpose of the LSTA grant was to gather information on possible changes to the district library legislation that WLA hoped to have introduced in the legislative session that started in January of 2005.

Options considered in the study were:

  1. Consolidated County
  2. Districts East and West
  3. Suburban District with Racine
  4. Suburban District without Racine
  5. Mount Pleasant as Stand Alone Library
  6. West End Library District Without Current Libraries

Committee members recommended that only option 3, a suburban district, east of 1-94 and including the city of Racine be advanced.  This meant that no districts were recommended for the area west of I-94 and that the county would continue to tax the 6 towns west of I-94 without libraries for library services with the county special library levy.  (Note that the legislation did not pass in the state legislature).

Legislative Recommendations

Part of the purpose of the LSTA was to gather information on possible changes to the district library legislation that WLA hoped to have introduced in the session that started in January of 2005.  The committee recommended that the draft legislation should:

  1. Provide for the possibility of using a local purposed, dedicated sales tax to supplement or supplant the use of property tax dollars for a library district.
  2. Provide that any library district plan must define how an existing library’s outstanding assets and liabilities will be transferred to the new library district. This includes the transfer of bonded indebtedness, unfunded pension liabilities, pending judgments, and so forth.
  3. Allow an existing municipality to provide specific indirect cost services for such things as personnel administration, payroll processing, and legal services to be contracted from one or more of the municipalities in the library district or from private businesses.
  4. The current language in the WLA position that would write job protection into statute should be eliminated. In its place, there should be a provision that requires the district plan to specify employment conditions and circumstances.

Organization of the 41 Page Report

  • Chapter 1 by provides an executive summary of the committee’s conclusions.
  • Chapter 2 indicates the committee’s recommendation to explore a joint library district for Racine City and the 6 municipalities east of Interstate 94 in Racine County.
  • Chapter 3 indicates the other options for districts or consolidation considered by the committee.
  • Chapter 4 discusses the use of impact fees to fund library services in library districts.
  • Chapter 5 covers the variety of types of library organizations found in the U.S., Wisconsin, and Racine County.
  • Chapter 6 provides background information on library services in Racine County.
  • Chapter 7 discusses circulation patterns in the county and their impact on districts.
  • Chapter 8 looks at the current Wisconsin Library Association proposal for library district legislation.
  • Chapter 9 provides further background information on library districts.