The Mid-Wisconsin Federated Library System, comprised of three counties including Washington County, will remain autonomous following a vote Tuesday not to pursue a merger with the Lakeshores Library System.
The Mid-Wisconsin System’s board discussed the possible merger in closed session, and then reconvened in open session for a vote, ultimately deciding that pursuing a merger would not be the board’s best interests.
The MWFLS is a consortium of all public libraries in Washington, Jefferson, and Dodge counties. By taking part in the system, the 27 public libraries can share resources, programs and funding opportunities, as well as take part in a shared online catalog system.
Regardless, MWFLS director Sue Cantrell said the board decided Tuesday that a merger would not be in the larger system’s best interest.
The idea of a merger is not a new proposal, as Cantrell said it was first proposed at least a year ago when Lakeshores approached the MWFLS board with the idea of merging to create a larger system. The board made the same decision at that time, but left the door open for future discussions.
More serious discussions began earlier this summer, along with the establishment of inter-board committees to explore the idea. Cantrell said had the merger have happened, it would have been the first such occurrence in the state.
“What it would mean is that both systems would dissolve, and one brand-new system would be created from all five counties. So Mid-Wisconsin wouldn’t exist anymore, Lakeshore wouldn’t exist, we’d combine and create one brand new system,” she said.
“This has never been done before, a merger. There were two other systems, Eastern Shores Library System and Manitowoc-Calumet, that tried to merge last year, but it didn’t work,” she added.
Around the state, 17 library systems govern a wide variety of areas, some having purview over only one county, such as Waukesha County, while others in the northern part of the state can stretch over more than ten.
Cantrell said had the systems merged, patrons at each individual library likely would not have noticed much of a difference in services offered. However, it was hoped the systems would have realized some cost savings over time.