Dwight Foster Public Library
2011 Annual Report

Expansion and Renovation Project

During January of 2011, the library staff, along with the assistance of many volunteers and an expert Yerges Van Lines moving crew, moved from its temporary location back into the library that was renovated and expanded during the construction project. A sneak peek event for donors was held just prior to the library's reopening on February 1, 2011. A community open house took place on February 13, 2011. Thousands of people attended and enjoyed the many ways the library had changed...and also the ways it hadn't.

Years of careful planning, a competitive bidding climate, and committed people allowed the library project to happen on its aggressive 10 month schedule and well under the $5.5 million budget. Parts of the library were gutted during construction. New floors were added and new rooms were created. Other items were moved or removed to make way for a changed layout. In the historic areas of the library, efforts were made to preserve the fine architectural elements. The library was one of the featured libraries in the annual architectural issue of the renowned Library Journal magazine (December 2011). The library's upside down tree, donated in memory of Ellen McGlynn, is featured in a photograph.

In addition to the building, the library's project dollars also funded the purchase of the parsonage property adjacent to the library. The library's long term future at the present location was secured with this addition to its property. The house was offered for salvage late in 2011 and is scheduled to be razed in 2012 allowing the library additional green space and much needed breathing room.

This is now a library that will serve this community well for many years to come. There is room for growth as well as built in flexibility. As the world rapidly changes, the library has the room and the structure in place to adapt its services to the needs of the citizens.

Technological Advances

The library installed an RFID materials handling system in the new library as well as a self-check system. This allowed the library staff to cope with the significant increase in library circulation.

As a part of the project, the library installed a new CAT6 state-of-the-art structured cabling system and completely new electrical and HVAC systems. A lighting control system helps the library to minimize its use of electricity and a new IP based phone system and video security system allow the staff to operate as efficiently as possible in a building that has significantly expanded in size.

Wired and Wi-Fi access, a technology center, and meeting rooms equipped with equipment needed for presentations make the library popular for individuals and groups of people.

The library also continued to offer web services, e-readers and downloadable books as digital content becomes increasingly important in the world in which we live. The library now has a Kindle, a Sony, and a Nook available for patrons to check out and try. Additionally, the library is a member of the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium and provides access to eBooks via Overdrive.

In 2011 the library began a "Book a Librarian" service which allows individuals to make an appointment for a one on one session with a librarian. Most folks used those sessions to learn more about their e-readers. In addition to those sessions, the library began offering classes in how to use the Kindle.

Art in the Library

The library settled into its home in 2011 and began to incorporate the additional planned art installations such as the outside sculpture. According to the artists, "Undercurrent" is inspired by the beautiful horizontal lines of the Library and by the presence of the Rock River in the community. The curving pattern made by the clay-tiled roof and the repeating arches in the architectural design were an inspiration. The flowing lines in the sculpture are intended to be reminiscent of the surface of moving water. The sculpture, which can be used as an outdoor seating spot during the right weather, offers a place for contemplation and discovery, and is also designed to express one of the unique aspects of Fort Atkinson.

A vibrant three panel paper collage, "Along the Rock River," was a collaborative community art project created in 2011 and funded in part with a grant received from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Project partners included the Fort Arts Council, the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation, the Friends of the Dwight Foster Library, many local citizens, and local paper artist and arts educator Sally Koehler. Over 40 citizens helped kick off the project at a "river story" event hosted in early April by the Hoard Historical Museum. For the next month, over 200 people submitted stories and drawings that inspired the artists and guided the composition of the artwork. An archived booklet of all of these stories and photos of the project can be viewed at the Hoard Historical Museum. The actual collage was created during a two-week library residency in June where community members were guided, taught and inspired by project partner Sally Koehler and professional paper artist Kirsten Christianson. Over 250 people ages 2 to 82 learned about paper making, made paper pulp figures & sheets of paper, and worked with the artists. This art piece, which now hangs in the library entry, is a permanent homage to the Rock River and its place in our history, as well as to the power art can play in our lives.

The library's public art committee met during 2011 and decided to proceed with a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to select the art for the children's department entry area. Local artist Jorn Mork, along with craftsman Bill Bale, was chosen to create the art that was installed in mid-December. The goal was to highlight the youth department entry so that all who enter will know immediately that this is the area for children as well as to draw youngsters in by capturing their attention, encouraging their natural curiosity and inviting them to explore their space.

Programs and Services

The library continued its tradition of offering a wide variety of programs in 2011. The summer reading program, "One World, Many Stories" was a big hit with the 945 children who joined and the 2,142 kids and adults who participated in all the activities.

Other programs included: monthly Read to Therapy Dogs, public and parochial school visits, 4K and Head Start story times, weekly public and daycare story times, Baby and Toddler Time programs, special Saturday youth parties and programs, adult and youth book discussion groups and a weekly "Learn How to Knit and More" program. The library again participated in The Big Read, organized by UW-Whitewater. The library very successfully coordinated a school/library kindergarten round-up to sign-up kids for library cards. In addition, some teen programs were made available this year including book discussions and a Teen Advisory Board.

Staff and Volunteers

Youth services librarian Shelly (Menzer) Fosdal retired on December 31, 2011 after almost 20 years of dedicated service. A retirement reception was held on Saturday, December 3. A selection committee has begun work to hire a replacement librarian as soon as possible in 2012.

The Friends of the Library, a group of individuals, local businesses and organizations, exists to provide financial and volunteer support to the library. The Friends of the Library group went into high gear during the library project and was instrumental in helping the library staff and community adjust to the changes throughout 2011. The Friends members helped tag the library with RFID tags, assisted in moving the library, acted as greeters to help citizens adjust to the new facility, raised funds to help fund author visits, kept the library shelves in order, restarted the used book sale from scratch, commissioned the triptych by local artist Jan Gilkey that is located at the top of the spiral staircase, and donated two laptops, one for downloading audio books to personal devices for patrons, and one for use for presentations in the community meeting room.

The youth arm of the Friends organization, the Junior Friends, trained new volunteers and provided assistance in the youth department in many ways, including doing a significant share of the work for the retirement celebration for Mrs. Shelly.

The new Upstairs Library Assistants program began in 2011. The program was the brainchild of citizen Sue Hartwick who saw the need for staff support during peak hours. Hartwick selected volunteers and managed the program throughout the year. The assistance of these citizen helpers has played an important role in the staff's ability to adjust to providing service on two floors.

Friends of Lorine Niedecker

The Friends of Lorine Niedecker continue to be dedicated to preserving and expanding the legacy of Lorine Niedecker. The organization offers access to archives, educational materials and publishes a semiannual newsletter. In 2011 the Friends of Lorine Niedecker began hosting a monthly poetry reading at the library called Third Thursday. They completed a PowerPoint slide show about Lorine that is available on the Niedecker website. The third Lorine Niedecker WI Poetry Festival was held at the library in September. They continue to publish the Solitary Plover newsletter two times per year. Partnerships included the Wisconsin Humanities Council, Wisconsin Writers Council, Fellowship of Wisconsin Poets, the Cafe Carpe, Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop and others. Margot Peters' biography of Lorine was published by UW Press in the Fall of 2011. The Friends of Lorine Niedecker provide support for the library to offer this cultural resource.

Collection and Use

The library's rich collection of materials now numbers almost 90,000 items. In 2011, the library was the beneficiary of a generous donation of DVDs from local movie enthusiast, Dick Schultz. A total of 1,295 DVDs were donated by Schultz and added to the library's collection, greatly expanding the size of the library's now substantial and important collection.

Nearly 220,000 physical items were checked out of the library in 2011. This is an increase of 20.4% from 2010 and 5% more than 2009 (the last year of operation without closures). As library circulation patterns are shifting from hard copies into the digital medium, the circulation numbers for physical materials have been trending downward nationwide. The fact that the Dwight Foster Public Library had such a significant increase in circulation is all the more telling of the growth the library experienced in 2011.

Dwight Foster Public Library annual circulation: 2000-2011

Another measure of usage, the people counter located at the entry door documented a count of 142,718 visitors in 2011. That is an increase of 54% in people who entered the library from the number who did so in 2010. Since 2011 included a full week of being closed, the library expects that the number of visitors in 2012 will climb even higher as each day typically brings in someone who hasn't yet seen the library.

In 2011, the library undertook its second move in 10 months, finished up a $5.5 million fundraising and construction project, lived within an operating budget that was, by necessity, created without the benefit of historical data, and reshaped its library services in a vastly changed and enlarged physical space. All this happened in a world that was undergoing fundamental, even tumultuous change.

For the library, the last few years have not been easy. But just as English author Samuel Johnson said over 300 years ago "what is easy is seldom excellent." Because the last few years have not been easy for most of our citizens, the library has been in a unique position to offer almost countless ways to improve lives. From help finding a job to help learning about an e-reader, from a place to contemplate to a place to congregate, the library offers Fort Atkinson citizens practically unlimited opportunities for growth...and many possible avenues in the pursuit of excellence.

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