Library of the YearMonona Public Library (Erick Plumb, Acting Library Director)
Under the creative leadership of the late library director Demita Gerber and her staff, the Monona Public Library has gone from good to great! The library has launched several innovative programs and initiatives, developed new partnerships and new collections.Using a grant from the American Library Association, the library conducted a “Great Stories” program to start outreach to at-risk teens in alternative high schools, garnering 85 percent participation. The library also established a Teen Advisory Board that initiated several community wide literacy programs and year-round activities for teens. Another program allows patrons to “Book a Librarian” for a session of uninterrupted assistance for reference or research.The library has increased the collective impact of limited financial resources during difficult budget times by developing partnerships with the City of Monona, the South Central Library System, The Natural Step Monona, Monona Public Schools and many other organizations. In addition, the library assessed community needs to develop collections in two key areas: sustainability and environmental concerns and health and wellness. The latter collection includes a supplemental Komen for the Cure Special Collection, funded by a grant from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation in Madison.
Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Manager, La Crosse Public Library, is WLA’s DEMCO Librarian of the Year. Marge says, “I am thrilled and honored to be receiving this award. Throughout my career working with kids, I have “gone-to-school” everyday and learned from kids, parents, co-workers, community partners and library colleagues across the state and nation how to become a better librarian for kids. It is thanks to these mentors of all ages and occupations that I have reached this special moment in my career.”
Marge says that her work has always involved networking and partnerships within the community to enhance services for kids. Collaborations and friendships with colleagues in schools, nature centers, museums, family resource centers and city departments has enriched the content of programs and services offered at the libraries where she has worked.
Marge has learned and shared with colleagues and developed leadership skills through her work in ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children, particularly as a priority consultant and then board member, in WLA as a WeLead mentor and the Wisconsin Women Library Workers. Marge says, “This brain trust of colleagues has led me to do better work with kids as well.”
Marge remarks that the favorite part of her career has been working with eager, bright young kids who come to love reading, their library and their librarians because of the friendly nurturing atmosphere. Those kids have grown up, become taxpayers and brought their children in to become lifelong library users. That, Marge says, is an accomplishment to be truly proud of!
Susan Braden, Reference Librarian, Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, is the Muriel Fuller Award winner. In the eleven years that Susan has been a reference librarian at Hedberg Public Library, she has become “Ms. Local History.” On top of her normal duties staffing the reference desk, answering email reference questions, teaching computer classes, and selecting books, she demonstrates her commitment to local history in a wide variety of ways.
Susan is in charge of the library’s Janesville Room where she produces a monthly display of selected materials, working with volunteers to index obituaries, high school yearbooks, photos, and the local newspapers. She teaches local history and genealogy workshops, contributes to a Janesville history blog and maintains cooperative relationships with area historical institutions.
But her persistence in following through on long-term historical projects and her pursuit of materials about closing Janesville industries is especially remarkable. One dramatic example is Sue’s prescience in arranging with the Janesville General Motors (GM) archivist to take three complete sets of United Auto Worker newsletters and assorted other items only days before the GM plan closed in December 2008. She sorted through the newsletters, keeping one set for the library and distributing the other sets to the Rock County Historical Society and the Wisconsin Historical Society. She also keeps an eagle eye out for materials from Parker Pen, the American Baton Company and other now defunct Janesville industries.
For six years, Sue single-handedly marshaled the funding, personnel and technology necessary to convert oral histories of Janesville workers recorded on cassette during the country’s bicentennial by a professional labor historian. Sue made sure that these oral histories were converted into transcribed podcasts available to the whole world on the library’s website.
Sue Braden’s commitment to local history has improved world-wide access to the library’s online history resources and demonstrated her strong cooperation with other area historical societies and libraries. “Ms. Local History” at Hedberg Public Library is certainly deserving of the WLA’s Muriel Fuller Award.
The Special Service Award goes to Robert Bocher, Public Library Technology Consultant with the Division for Libraries, Technology and Community Learning at the Department of Public Instruction. Bob says, “I am sincerely honored to be recognized by the Wisconsin library community. The Internet -- and especially Web -- has infused itself into all aspects of library service. I hope my modest efforts over the years to help libraries get connected have enhanced library services and helped to broaden the world of information access for staff and library patrons.”
Certainly, no one can argue that Bob has been one of the strongest proponents of enhancing library service through technology. Bob has been a strong advocate for shared integrated library systems and managed over $2 million in LSTA grants to assist libraries in joining shared systems. Today, 93% of the state’s public libraries are in shared systems, compared to just 40% a decade ago.
Bob was an early advocate for library Internet access. He administered over $1 million in LSTA grants to help libraries get Internet connectivity. Every Wisconsin public library now has a high-speed Internet connection.
Bob has assisted libraries and library systems get connected to BadgerNet, the state’s broadband network that is used to connect shared integrated systems and for Internet access. Most recently he wrote much of the state Department of Administration’s successful $28 million federal stimulus grant to bring fiber broadband connectivity to all of the state’s public libraries and schools on BadgerNet.
Other achievements include assistance with the initial development of BadgerLink, which provides our libraries and residents with Web access to thousands of periodicals; coordination of the federal E-rate program for Wisconsin; managing grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that have provided Wisconsin libraries with 1,100 personal computers. At the national level, Bob has chaired ALA’s E-rate Task Force and its Subcommittee on Telecommunications and wrote ALA’s Internet Access Principles. In August 2009 he was named a Fellow of the association’s Office for Information Technology Policy and continues to consultant with ALA on Internet and broadband issues.
Bob was a founding member and first president of the Friends of the Monona Public Library and served for twelve years on the Monona Public Library Board. In his spare time he co-authored the book “Privacy In the 21st Century: Issues for Public, School and Academic Libraries.”
The Citation of Merit is shared by John Wilmet, John Mielke, Mark Zastrow, Loren Gray, Davin Lescohier and Dick Schultz, city officials in Fort Atkinson during the years when the commitment was made to expand and renovate the Dwight Foster Public Library. Public libraries provide vital infrastructure within their communities and yet despite increasing demand from users may not fare well when the pie is sliced ever more thinly at the local level. However, there are examples of cities, like Fort Atkinson, that have prioritized the library in such a way that a commitment to an expansion and renovation project could be made, and kept, despite the economic downturn of the past few years. The fact that the Foster Growth capital campaign was encouraged to proceed speaks volumes about the leadership of John Wilmet, city manager, and the entire city council of Fort Atkinson.
The Dwight Foster Public Library had been working on resolving its space problems since 2001 when it conducted its first ever community survey. That survey was the first formal citizen input documenting how the building’s shortcomings impeded its ability to provide services. After that, the library board worked hard to gain the support of city officials in order to ensure the ultimate success of the project. Not only would the city be asked to help fund the construction, the city council would be expected to operate a facility that would require additional annual operating dollars.
The project moved forward, step by step, year after year. At every decision point, the approvals relied on the ability of the city manager to communicate the importance of the library and the thoughtfulness of the plan to both the elected officials and the citizens of the city of Fort Atkinson. This was no small task, especially given the economic times that arrived just about the time the project was ready to move into its capital campaign. Yet, amazingly, there was no call for a referendum. There were no letters to the editor questioning the city’s need to help fund the expansion and renovation. The city council was not only unanimous in every decision, but the members were vocal in their public and private comments.
The city officials of Fort Atkinson recognized the importance of the library to the city and its citizens. They retained a vision and commitment to the project, ensuring that Dwight Foster Public Library will remain relevant well into its next chapter and beyond.
Dr. Katherine Schneider, past president, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library Board of Trustees, is the Trustee of the Year. Katherine is a long-time library user and an ardent supporter of the library community and everything to do with libraries – at the local, state and national levels. She has been actively involved in the Friends of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library and served as the Board liaison with the Friends. Katherine is a strong supporter and defender of the library’s successful home delivery service. She also uses the service since she is blind. She supports the library’s involvement in and attends the annual Library Legislative Day in Madison. Katherine encourages trustee education and involvement. She supported the library’s 2006-08 capital campaign and, in 2009, led the Library Board through the largest renovation of the current library facility in the building’s 33-year history.
Katherine is the originator of the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Awards for children’s books with disability content. In 2003, she and her family endowed this ALA Award honoring an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Each of the three awards comes with a plaque and $5,000.
Katherine is retired clinical psychologist, an author of two books about living with disabilities, and a frequent speaker about disability issues.