Dwight Foster Public Library
2006 Annual Report

Staff spent 2006 providing community-driven library services as well as planning for important changes at the Dwight Foster Public Library. The highlights are outlined below.

Space Needs

The library continues to be 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 4,428 items in 2006 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.

In 2005 the library board and staff formulated 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 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 of 2005, with the final closing on January 3, 2006. 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 house was used by the Fort Atkinson Fire Department for training and then demolished in late February of 2006 to pave the way for the future expansion project.

Technological Advances

Throughout 2006, the library operated within its successful BRIDGES consortium but spent the year planning for a migration to a larger automation consortium. The BRIDGES automation consortium was a cooperative venture between the Dwight Foster Public Library, the Jefferson Public Library and the Powers Memorial Library (Palmyra). Items were shared among the three partnering libraries via a daily van delivery service received from the Mid-Wisconsin Federated Library System. This capability greatly increased the speed with which we were able to fill requests for our patrons and gave us direct access to many items which we do not own in Fort Atkinson. It was a practical way to expand our library resources without adding physical space.

In 2006, the library reached its "end of life" on its current automation system server. As a result, staff spent 2006 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, studied the option of a wide area network automation system that includes the libraries in the following five counties: Jefferson County, Dodge County, Washington County, Walworth County, and Racine County. A contract was signed with a vendor and all the public libraries in the five county area agreed to participate in the project, named SHARE. Mid-Wisconsin and Lakeshores Library Systems are funding the initial costs and libraries will pay the ongoing licensing and maintenance costs as well as any associated local costs. Our "go-live date" was January 11th, 2007. This project consumed staff time for the majority of 2006, in particular in the last 6 months. As the staff and public become more comfortable with the new software system, the full benefits of the system will be realized. Easy access to over 2.2 million library items is a key advantage of joining the automation consortium.

In addition to its traditional Internet access for the public, the library has also been offering wireless Internet access. This service has been extremely well received by the public.

Programs and Services

The library continued its tradition of offering a wide variety of programs in 2006. The summer reading program, "Paws, Claws, Scales and Tales", was a big hit with the 841 children who participated and the 3,617 kids and adults who participated in all the activities. A seventh annual adult summer reading program involved 61 participating adults, 36 of whom reported reading 10 or more books between June and August. The library added a Young Adult summer reading program in 2005. Twenty one teens signed up to participate in 2006, 12 teens reported reading more than 10 books.

The monthly brown bag lunch programs also proved popular. Other programs included: monthly Read Dog and Head Start visits, weekly story times, book babies program, adult and youth book discussion groups including Jefferson County Reads and a monthly Spanish/English story time. In 2006 the library offered a second phase of the Wisconsin Humanities Council's "A More Perfect Union" program which focused on national defense. In addition we offered programs on geology, the American Red Cross, a community poetry reading, a program on county government featuring some of the county board supervisors, several craft classes and a program on financing higher education. The library hosted several authors this year including 4 mystery authors, a return visit from award-winning mystery author Julia Spencer-Fleming, local writers John Lehman and Jim Robar and children's author Jane Kurtz. The library also held several programs for grandparents funded through a grant program and very successfully coordinated a school/library kindergarten round-up to sign-up kids for library cards.

The library home delivery program continued to grow. In 2006 library staff and Friends members delivered books and other library materials to 7 individuals on a regular basis.

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 270.5 volunteer hours for the youth department, including stuffing 400 "library bags for newborns" to be distributed at the Fort Atkinson Memorial Hospital.

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 2006. 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 number of donations on behalf of the library in 2006. Additionally, the library received a commitment of a donation of $100,000 from the Fort Community Credit Union when the library expansion fundraising campaign begins.

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

The Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Inc. published two issues of their newsletter, The Solitary Plover. In March they distributed their high school study unit on Lorine's poetry at the Wisconsin Educational Media Association conference. In July, they assisted scholar Karen Anderson from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The group also sponsored a Niedecker poetry study group on 4 Mondays in May that was taught by local poet Pat Moran.

Collection and Use

The library's rich collection of materials numbers over 87,000 items including almost every available format. Almost 198,000 items were checked out in 2006. This is a very slight decrease from 2005 (less than 1%). The fact that the library lengthened its loan periods in late 2006, seemed to account for the slight dip in circulation. A further examination of the statistics does show that both number of visits increased from 2005 by approximately 7%.

In fact, the number of people entering the library reached an all-time record of 195,696 visits for the year. 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 25,000 uses were made of electronic resources by the public within the library in 2006. Additionally, patrons are utilizing our library's electronic services from outside the building at an ever increasing rate. In 2006, the average number of remote logins to the library's catalog grew to 1,100 logins (using a library card number) per month. The library's Web site has continued to grow, now encompassing approximately 200 individual pages.

The library's number of registered patrons was 22,745 at the end of the year. The Dwight Foster Public Library registered 1,185 new library patrons in 2006.

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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