Legislative Alerts

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SB717/AB704 - The Tribal College and Joint County Libraries bill, co-authored by Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Representative Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz), with Senators Wanggard, Bewley and Vinehout co-sponsoring, was passed by the Senate on March 15 and sent to the Governor's desk. It will allow a tribal college-county joint library to participate in a public library system.   

WLA registered in support and assisted the Department of Public Instruction with constituent contacts throughout the process.  The bill was unanimously supported by members of the Senate Committee on Elections and Local Government and Assemly Committee on Urban and Local Affairs before passing both houses of the legislature on a simple voice vote.


Governor signed "Return of Library Materials" into law on Monday, February 29  

The “Return of Library Materials” bill SB 466/AB 609 passed the Senate on a voice vote (no debate, no opposition) on February 9 as many of us were heading home from Library Legislative Day.  It passed the Assembly late Tuesday afternoon, February 16, in a similar bi-partisan way.  

With that in mind, ALL of our legislators in both the Senate and Assembly became supporters and should receive handwritten thank you notes from librarians in their districts.  

This is an excellent opportunity to further relationship building with your legislators!  Invite them to book your library meeting room for listening sessions and office hours sessions, attend library events and/or come in for a tour and conversation of how your library transforms your community!  The stellar contributions by WLA members who worked directly on this bill and took the time to attend Library Legislative Day is just a beginning.  Important contacts leading to understanding happen in the legislators home districts when the legislature is not in session.  

VERIFY YOUR SENATOR AND ASSEMBLY REPRESENTATIVE AND FIND THEIR CONTACT INFO HERE by clicking on the map or typing your street address into the search box in the upper right hand corner. When the info box appears, clicking on a legislator's name will take you to his/her directory page. URL: http://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/  

Please check below for the names of your Senators and Representatives as special friends of this effort and acknowledge their early and important support when you write. 

And THANK YOU from the Library Development & Legislation Committee for every call made and note sent during the entire legislative process leading up to this moment of success.  Passage of TWO proactive pieces of legislation in one session is a first for WLA!

MEDIA TOOL KIT FOR LIBRARIANS & TRUSTEES – Return of Library Materials  

Governor Walker signed the Return of Library Materials bill into law on February 29 along with nearly 50 other bills. This legislation was supported by the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA).  

The legislation clarifies how two different Wisconsin statutes work together; one is about library patron privacy (s.43.30) and the other about theft of library materials (s. 943.61). Some libraries already contracted with collection agencies or followed municipal ordinances that allowed law enforcement assistance. Other libraries had been advised by municipal attorneys that they could not.  

Local media may be contacting individual community libraries to inquire about local policies.  

Media coverage of the Return of Library Materials bill during the legislative process emphasized a library’s potential use of police powers, referenced “library fines” as interchangeable with the retrieval of and payment for unreturned items, and trivialized the loss of library materials. While post-bill signing coverage following a timely WLA press release on February 29 has portrayal patron privacy protection and lost item retrieval more accurately, collection agencies specializing in library accounts and the limited use of law enforcement assistance to send letters under municipal ordinance are not well understood.  

The text of the WLA Press release is posted HERE. A printable version of the original is HERE. Feel free to share the press release with your local media, accompanied by a paragraph or two briefly explaining your particular library’s current policies and practices. It’s better to be proactive and tell your library’s story in your own way than end up responding to a pre-set frame.  

Be prepared for media questions about how this may affect your library: Does your library currently contract with a library collection agency? If so, what is the return on investment? If not, will you? Does your library already receive some kind of assistance from law enforcement to retrieve unreturned items? Are policy changes by the library board anticipated with this new law? How much on average does your library lose in unreturned materials in a typical year?  

Here are the main talking points: 
• The legislation is directed at return of materials and replacement costs, not ordinary “nickel and dime” library fines. 
• The legislation addresses a big problem: non-returned library materials cost Wisconsin taxpayers an estimated $3 million annually.
• Librarians are frugal and attentive guardians of the public’s assets. 
• Libraries respect and protect the privacy rights of citizens who utilize library services and resources. 
• This legislation strikes the proper balance between patron privacy and the protection of public property while providing libraries with clear statutory authority.
• Information to be disclosed is limited to the individual’s name, contact information, amount owed and the number and types of overdue materials (NOT the titles of the materials).
• The legislation is enabling, not mandatory. No library board will be obligated to contract with a collection agency. 
• No law enforcement agency will be obligated to retrieve library materials or collect amounts owed for lost items. Mutually acceptable local agreements are constructed and implemented to appropriately fit each community’s library and police policies. 
• Local library boards will review the new law to determine if any changes to current policies are needed. 

In the future, WLA members can expect more information focused forward – on how to interpret the legislation and more importantly implement the new options available. A WAPL program is planned along these lines.