Dwight Foster Public Library
2005 Annual Report

2005 was a year of growth, change, and planning for the future at the Dwight Foster Public Library. The highlights are outlined below.

Space Needs

The library is very crowded. A number of collections were moved to alternative areas of the library (usually the basement) to allow for collection growth. Even so, staff discarded 2,690 items in 2005 to make room for newly purchased items. All collections are at their maximum capacity. A full analysis of the library's space conditions was made in 2002 by space needs consultant, George Lawson. His report is available for review upon request.

To further explore our library space options, the library board of trustees hired Uihlein Wilson Architects to conduct a space needs feasibility study. Focus groups and a three day workshop were held in the Fall of 2002 to gather information and prepare an analysis of how the existing structure might be used to accommodate the community's needs for the next twenty years. The resulting report was finalized in 2003 and is available for review upon request.

The library board and staff spent 2005 formulating a library building program document which included several community input sessions and numerous board and staff working sessions. That document outlines the library's service and operational requirements for its future building program in words and numbers, not schematic drawings. The program will serve as the written instructions to the architect in the beginning of the design process. The document was completed and adopted by the board of trustees on September 8th of this year. It is available for review upon request.

The city, on behalf of the library, completed the purchase of the house located at 105 S. Third Street East in December, with the final closing on January 3rd. The funds used to finance the purchase were from private donors through the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation, a gift from the Highsmith family foundation, and from the library's trust fund. The library board has made the decision to demolish the house in 2006 to pave the way for the future expansion project.

Technological Advances

The library continued with its successful BRIDGES consortium. The BRIDGES automation consortium is a cooperative venture between the Dwight Foster Public Library, the Jefferson Public Library and the Powers Memorial Library (Palmyra). Items are shared among the three partnering libraries via a daily van delivery service received from the Mid-Wisconsin Federated Library System. This capability greatly increases the speed with which we are able to fill requests for our patrons and gives us direct access to many items which we do not own in Fort Atkinson. It's a practical way to expand our library resources without adding physical space.

The library is at the end of life on its current automation system server and is planning for the next generation in library automation software. Due to the high cost of library automation systems, libraries have been joining together to share costs, collections and patron databases. The Mid-Wisconsin Federated Library System, of which the Dwight Foster Public Library is a member, has been studying the option of a wide area network automation system that would include the libraries in the following five counties: Jefferson County, Dodge County, Washington County, Walworth County, and Racine County. A contract has recently been signed with a vendor and all the libraries in Mid-Wisconsin have agreed to participate in the project, named MIDAS. Mid-Wisconsin and Lakeshores Library Systems will be funding the initial costs and libraries will pay the ongoing licensing and maintenance costs. We expect our library to make the changeover to the MIDAS system in 2006. It will be a very large project and will require considerable staff effort and training during the transition time.

During 2005, the library began offering access to digital audio books through a subscription through the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium. We were selected to be the pilot program library for the Mid-Wisconsin Federated Library System.

In November of 2005, after months of work by staff, the library deployed an Internet access management software program called EnvisionWare. The software automates and manages the use of the Internet as well as general public access computers for library patrons. Patrons can now simply log in with their library card and use a computer for a specified period of time. The following are some of the benefits of this new management tool:

  • it allows more uniform provision of precious computer resources
  • it provides patrons more privacy and the ability to book computers in advance
  • it drastically reduces the amount of staff time spent in oversight of the computer areas
  • it saves on printing costs by requiring patrons to pay for copies before they are "released" and then printed
  • it provides more accurate statistics on use
  • it allows for consistent enforcement of the Internet policy

The most recent new technology service the library is offering is wireless Internet access. The installation of the Wi-Fi network has just been completed and patrons are now able to access the Internet from their laptops in our adult reference department.

Programs and Services

The library continued its tradition of offering a wide variety of programs in 2005. The summer reading program, Dragons, Dreams, and Daring Deeds, was a big hit with the 704 children who participated. A sixth annual adult summer reading program involved 76 participating adults, 43 of whom reported reading 10 or more books between June and August . The library added a Young Adult summer reading program in 2005. Sixteen teens signed up to participate, 7 teens reported reading more than 10 books. The monthly brown bag lunch programs also proved popular. Other programs included: monthly Read Dog visits, weekly storytime, book babies program, adult and youth book discussion groups including Jefferson County Reads, a number of Wisconsin Humanities Council speakers, a monthly Spanish/English storytime, a series on world issues and programs on digital cameras and the new Medicare Drug Benefit. The library home delivery program continued to grow. In 2005 library staff and Friends members delivered books and other library materials to 10 individuals.

The Friends of the Library, a group of individuals, local businesses and organizations, exists to provide financial and volunteer support to the Library. This organization makes it possible to provide programs and services that the library would not ordinarily be able to provide. The youth arm of the Friends organization, the Junior Friends, worked a total of 264 volunteer hours for the youth department, including stuffing 600 "library bags for newborns" to be distributed at the Fort Atkinson Memorial Health Services.

The library also partnered with a number of community organizations including the Jefferson County Literacy Council, the Fort Atkinson Science Fair, the Hoard Historical Museum, the Dodge-Jefferson Healthier Community Partnership, Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson, Relay for Life, Fort Atkinson Community Coalition, Opportunities, Inc., Jefferson County Jail, Fort Atkinson School District and Head Start throughout 2005. These partnerships provided mutual benefit and allowed for important services to be provided to the citizens of our community.


The library fund in the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation received a bequest from Alice Hake in the amount of $62,621.10 as well as a donation in the amount of $30,000 from the Highsmith Family Foundation. The library's trust fund received a donation of $7,000 from the Friends of the Library, memorial contributions in memory of former library staffer, Liz Seybold, in the amount of $1,470 and bequests totaling $1,043 in memory of Dr. Edwin Schoenenberger. A number of other memorial contributions were also received as well as other donations from businesses, organizations, and individuals. A full listing is available upon request.

Lorine Niedecker

In 2005 The Lorine Niedecker committee successfully incorporated into a separate private nonprofit organization now called The Friends of Lorine Niedecker. This organization launched its Friends of Lorine Niedecker newsletter called The Solitary Plover. Two issues of the newsletter were distributed in 2005 to a total mailing list of 215 individuals. In addition, the Friends commissioned a study unit for high school students. This study unit was tested by a teacher at Fort Atkinson Senior High School and in October, was presented at the Wisconsin Teachers of English and Language Arts annual conference in Madison.

Collection and Use

The library's rich collection of materials numbers almost 85,000 items including almost every available format. Almost 198,000 items were checked out in 2005. This is a very slight decrease from 2004 (less than 1%). A further examination of the numbers does show that both number of visits and number of checkout sessions actually increased from 2004.

In fact, the number of people entering the library increased 48% over the past five years reaching a count of 183,054 visits for the year. This is the most visits recorded in a single year in the history of the library and is an increase of 422% since the library was last expanded over twenty years ago. While circulation numbers have seen a flattened rate of growth due, at least in part, to the Internet, the Internet has also caused a boom in library traffic. With the library's high-speed public Internet access, subscriptions to high quality databases, and knowledgeable staff, over 23,000 uses were made of electronic resources by the public within the library in 2005. Additionally, patrons are utilizing our library's electronic services from outside the building at an ever increasing rate. In 2005, the average number of remote logins to the library's catalog grew to 914 logins (using a library card number) per month. This is an increase of 29.5% from last year. The library's Web site has continued to grow, now encompassing approximately 200 individual pages.

The library's number of registered patrons was 30,330 at the end of the year. This large increase was due to the formation of BRIDGES several years ago. The Dwight Foster Public Library registered 928 new library cards in 2005. We expect that number to increase significantly since the library's Internet access now requires a library card for logging on.

The library is a vast resource for our community. Each and every day, the staff works hard to ensure that we stay focused on our library's vision. Adopted in our most recent strategic plan, here is that vision that carries us forward: The Dwight Foster Public Library seeks to ignite the quest for knowledge and understanding and provide the necessary resources for life's journey, for each member of our community. Our facility, programs, and collections must be the anchor of our community, as we strive to preserve the record of history, inspire discovery, and make accessible the vast body of information so that all can learn, share, grow, and contribute.

As we make a difference for our community, day by day, person by person, we remember the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes..."One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."

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