Archive for the ‘Library expansion’ Category


We grew (in more ways than one)!

January 24, 2012

Dwight Foster Public Library annual circulation: 2000-2011

As we reflect on 2011 here at the Dwight Foster Public Library, we can know one thing for sure:  we grew!  We grew both physically and in terms of usage.   Our successful Foster Growth capital campaign allowed us to renovate and expand our library, adding 12,000 square feet to our existing 21,000.  That growth allowed us to grow in terms of service to our community.  More people than ever not only visited our library to see all that had changed, but they also checked out more items than any other year in the previous ten…by a considerable sum.

A library’s circulation numbers don’t tell the whole story because, by definition, a circulation is simply a count of a physical item that has left the building.   It doesn’t measure how many people read a newspaper, came to use a computer, asked a question, made a photocopy or used a meeting room.   It doesn’t even count e-book circulations.  (That’s a topic for another day.)   However, a library circulation, limited measure that it is, is still a very good way to compare a library to itself over time.   I think the chart above shows a remarkable pattern of steadiness and vitality, particularly in light of our world’s increasingly rapid move from the physical to the digital world.

If you want to ponder another measure, here is a chart depicting the number of library visits based on our people counter (purchased in 2010 and located at the front entry).

Dwight Foster Public Library visits - 2011 compared to 2010

All in all, it was a year of enormous change and significant growth for our library.  If you’d like to read more, you can find the full 2011 annual report here.


100 years ago today

May 6, 2010

Yes, exactly 100 year ago today the Daily Jefferson County Union ran a story that is amazingly fitting for today, May 6, 2010.

Melissa Wagner of the Daily Jefferson County Union found it while researching archives for the newspaper’s “Memory Lane” feature.  She kindly shared it with me.  It ran in the Daily Union newspaper on May 6, 1910.   I think it’s so heartening that the citizens were in search of a first-class building, well located.  I had to smile when I read that donors had until the next day to commit their support.  It appears they were overly ambitious in their capital campaign deadline and had to extend it a bit.  The library’s history book indicates they had to work fairly hard (for longer than one day) to raise funds to help augment the eventual gift from Henry Southwell.  It actually took six more years to get the library built (in the building that we know today) at the corner of East Milwaukee and Merchants Avenues.  One hundred years later, we want the very same thing for Fort Atkinson.  That’s what we’ve worked so hard to ensure.  May our descendants, 100 years from now, still have a first-class library building, well located.

Here is the exact text:

An unexpected opportunity to secure a valuable location for a Public Library for the City of Fort Atkinson, together with a building which will meet the needs of the Library for some years to come was presented to the Library Board. A Committee was appointed to interview the people of Fort Atkinson and ascertain if a sufficient amount could be raised to purchase the property. The Committee met with favorable responded when soliciting for funds; the contributions already promised insure the success of the undertaking, and that Fort Atkinson is to have, some day, a first-class Library Building, well located. There still remains a few hundred dollars to be secured, and in order that all who have a desire to aid in this work may have the opportunity to give as much or as little as it may be their pleasure to donate for this laudable and public spirited undertaking this announcement is made and those who wish to assist are requested to inform any member of the Library Board or the Librarian not later than Saturday, May 7th, if possible.  Members of the Library Board are: Mrs. C.A. Caswell, A.J. Glover, Rev. A.F. Nicolaus, Prof. J.A. Hagemann, Mrs. J.F. Schreiner, Mrs.D.A. Bullock, A.C. Price, Mrs. C.W. Ferris, J.N. Hager and A.M. Webb. The Librarian is Sue Nichols.


Three days down…more to go

March 17, 2010

We have finished the third day of moving our library.    This is very hard work.    It’s physically and mentally exhausting.    Today I was cleaning cupboards going through historical files and boxes.  I discovered a treasure trove of documents in a metal lock box (unlocked, thank heavens) that I never knew was there.  In all these years, I’d never reached to the back of that high shelf.  I just knew there were items stored in that location that the previous director had felt important enough to save and I’d never sorted through it all.   I don’t know about you, but in my world something always takes priority over cleaning closets.  Today I sorted through everything.

Inside the lock box I found the paperwork from the house that was purchased in 1914 to make way for the library that was built in 1916.  (The house was eventually moved to Bluff Street and still exists today.)  It is hand signed by the homeowners.  I also found a bank book from that time and numerous documents related to the 1916 library.  I got goosebumps as I examined the historical documents marking the very beginning of our library at 102 E. Milwaukee Avenue.

Most of my discoveries are not that much fun.  Mostly I discover stuff that either has to be moved or thrown.   I never realized how much stuff we had.   Every time I look around there’s another cupboard to empty.

Each box that’s packed is then loaded onto a cart.  Every single book shelf has to be loaded to a cart so the bookshelf can be taken apart (if possible) and moved.  Kevin Becker of Yerges Van Liners told us that a fully loaded book cart weighs about 600 pounds.  (We were discussing our elevator’s weight capacity.)  A fully loaded book cart with non-fiction from the youth department feels even heavier than that.  Many of these carts are now lined up waiting for our elevator.  I used to think our elevator was pretty fast.  This week it’s seemed as if I could go take a nap while I’m waiting for the elevator to get back upstairs.  (Maybe I should.  I’m pretty tired after three days of this.)

But, oh my, do you think we could we have any better weather than this for mid-March?  And could we have a more helpful moving company or more dedicated staff and volunteer crew?  Or better treats from our Friends of the Library bakers?  I think not.

It’s too soon to know an official reopening date.  We have made enormous progress.  The fiction room is cleared out and all set up at the temporary library.  The children’s department is mostly empty too but only partially moved and set up.  The Internet came up at the other site without a hitch.  However, we have almost no computers or desks moved yet.  And still no working phone system.

Everybody is working hard.  It does take time; it’s an enormous undertaking. 

Onward to day four!


Home sweet temporary home

March 15, 2010

Temporary library at the corner of Janesville and Rockwell Avenues

We are now officially closed while we move our library from 102 East Milwaukee Avenue to our temporary library site at the corner of Janesville and Rockwell Avenues in Fort Atkinson.  This will allow our renovation and expansion project to be on a more efficient schedule, saving many dollars in construction as well as providing for far less disruption to library users.  You can read more about it in the Daily Jefferson County Union.  Regional Editor Ryan Whisner wrote a detailed and informative story.   

We appreciate your patience while we do the work to move about 90,000 items, our furniture, equipment, computer network, telephone system, IT infrastructure and every piece of shelving we own.  Our shelving has to be emptied, broken down, moved, reinstalled, and then reloaded with books, magazines, DVDs, and audiobooks.  Moving an entire library is no small task.  The library staff has worked diligently to prepare for our move and will continue to work hard during the transition.   Staffers have donated many hours of volunteer time and worked side-by-side with the best crew of volunteers you can imagine.   Thank you seems inadequate but I’ll say it anyway.   Thank you each and every one of you! 

Several companies deserve special recognition for their generous in-kind donations at the temporary location. 

Mark Haubenschild, of Spacesaver Corporation, arranged for our mobile storage system to be broken down at the library and reinstalled at our temporary site.  We would not be able to fit our collections in our temporary site if it weren’t for our Spacesaver shelving.  (It absolutely works as advertised.  It allows you to maximize your storage capacity.  With such a finite footprint, every foot is critical.)    We are indebted to Mark and Ron Jordan for arranging for John Cuder to do our Spacesaver installation.  John is an expert and very good-natured to boot.  I know about the good-natured part because…well…let’s just say I tested it while deciding on exact location of the rails.  Local merchants Goyer Ace Hardware, Sherwin Williams, and JM Carpets donated paint and carpeting that helped transform the facility.  We’re very grateful for their support of our community’s library! 

While our library is closed, you may return your materials in our new bookdrop at the temporary library site.  The book drop is located in the parking lot behind the building.  You must enter the parking lot on Janesville Avenue.  You may exit at either Janesville Avenue or behind the building at Rockwell Avenue.  We’re converting the back driveway to an “exit only” to accommodate the traffic flow for the bookdrop.  Making the traffic one way behind the building allows for drive-up access to the bookdrop from a vehicle’s driver’s side.  

The front door to the library is under the blue awning.  It’s not quite the same as entering between our library pillars but it is a very identifiable entryway!  The handicapped accessible entry is located at the back of the building.  

I will report on the move during the week.  Check back for more information.


Give a gift that lasts

December 23, 2009

The following was written by Dr. James Fitzpatrick, chair of the library’s Foster Growth capital campaign.  It appeared in the Daily Jefferson County Union’s  “At the library” column on Monday, December 21, 2009.

A Lasting Christmas Gift to the Community by Dr. James Fitzpatrick, capital campaign chair

As the holiday season is upon us we are pleased to inform citizens that our Dwight Foster capital campaign has gone well.  The plan calls for an expansion of 12,000 square feet along with the renovation of our current space.  As we get closer to the construction phase it is critical that we have the donations needed to move forward.  Our library is one of our crown jewels in this community and we are excited to make it even more so.

In this the holiday season, we would like to ask citizens to consider a donation to our Foster Growth capital campaign.  Such a gift will have a long lasting impact that will benefit people of all ages for many years to come.    The holidays are a perfect time to think about giving.  Please consider a charitable contribution to a cause that will help ensure excellent library services for our community for now…and for those who follow. You may make your gift in memory or honor of someone special in your life.  We’ve even had a donation in honor of Fort Atkinson High School’s class of 1964.  What a great way to pay tribute! We cannot express adequately in words our thanks to so many who have already given generously to this most worthy cause.  And we’d love nothing more than to add you to the list of people who have given to help us improve our library.

There is still time to make your donation by making out a check to the FACF Library Fund and send it in care of Connie Meyer, Director, Dwight Foster Public Library, 102 E. Milwaukee Avenue, Fort Atkinson, WI, 53538.  If you prefer, you may drop off your gift at the library or donate online with your credit card.  Online donations are made through the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation’s website here.

Happiest of holidays to each of you and thank you for considering helping us foster growth in Fort Atkinson.


Magical musical moment

November 19, 2009

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  Instead of my usual thousand words, I thought I’d keep the words to a minimum and share this incredible photograph courtesy of professional photographer, Lori Compas.  Lori was at our music night at the museum fundraiser and captured some of the magic with her camera.  You can’t hear the beautiful music, but you can see the intensity on Bill Camplin’s face here.  Bill, Satchel, and Randy each demonstrated their unique talents.  Their outstanding performances, varied musical selections, and rapport with the audience made for a show I will never forget.  I had goosebumps.

Thank you to Bill, Satchel, and Randy for sharing their talents with our library.  The fundraiser was successful beyond anyone’s expectations.  We raised over $4,500 for the library’s Foster Growth building fund.

Thank you to the staff of the Cafe Carpe, Pat Belt, Maria Perez-Hametta, Kori Oberle, the museum staff…and all the other kind people who helped.   We are grateful to those who donated prizes for the raffle and everyone who bought tickets to the raffle and for the event.

Left to right: Randy Sabien, Bill Camplin, Satchel Paige


A special legacy of Hugh Highsmith

June 19, 2009

Hugh Highsmith passed away on June 7, 2009 at the age of 94.   Even though Mr. Highsmith lived a long and fruitful life, it is still hard to say goodbye.

Mr. Highsmith personally touched many by providing employment to hundreds of people at his library supply company in Fort Atkinson for over 50 years.  I have heard employees remark about Hugh’s obvious interest in them as people.  Quite simply, he cared about the well-being of his employees.

Mr. Highsmith, a truly philanthropic gentleman, contributed financially to projects of all kinds, including our own library and The Hoard Museum.  He did so at key times, for example, when the library project relied on a gift in the early stages of our expansion in 1983.  He contributed to the county by acquiring and donating the land for the Jefferson County Indian Mounds Park.   He was quiet, humble, and so giving.

He gave…so that others could enjoy and grow.

At his memorial service, I could tell by the comment from grandson, Cyrus, that he fostered growth in his family too.   When Cyrus Highsmith, an artist,  spoke of the voice he hears inside his head and how he came to identify that as Hugh’s, I couldn’t help but feel an incredible admiration.  To leave a gift like that for his grandson is a remarkable thing indeed.

Son Tod spoke about his connection with the land that was fostered from his early childhood exploration of the family’s beautiful property.   He recognized his father’s role in nurturing his lifelong love of the earth.

Son Duncan shared his sense of deep gratitude to be able to work with Hugh, side-by-side, for so many years until he’d learned enough to take over as CEO/President.

At the memorial service, it certainly clicked for me.  I understood that the similar refrain in all the stories was the way Hugh Highsmith fostered growth in everything and everyone he touched.  As I pondered that thought, I realized how fitting it was that he and his wife Fanny were selected as the honorary chairs of our “Foster Growth” capital campaign last year.

Foster growth.  Mr. Highsmith demonstrated they aren’t just words in a capital campaign slogan.  When you live it, you leave quite a legacy indeed.


*See* the change that has already happened

January 21, 2009

Every once in awhile, life forces you to see with new eyes, to take another look, reframe your mental image.

I had this experience just the other day.

I arrived at my daughter’s basketball game, studied the team enroute to my seat and silently wondered why she wasn’t there.  As a mother will do, I immediately began ticking off the possibilities on my worry list. She was getting a drink of water. She was still suiting up. She’d missed the bus. She’d been kidnapped. (As you can see, the seriousness ratchets up quickly.)

Within moments I spotted some parents who might know her whereabouts. Naturally, I inquired, “Have you seen Meredith?”  Much to my surprise they replied with, “Yes, there on the floor, number 13.”  This was accompanied by puzzled expressions and fingers pointing toward a girl standing in line to shoot.

“No,” I said [emphatically], “That’s not her.”

The parents then began attempting to convince me it was Meredith.  Their insistence eventually elicited from me, “Don’t you think I’d know my own daughter?”   (I’ve watched the movie The Changeling; I felt like the mother being told that some imposter was her child.)

Moments later Coach was called over and consulted on the whereabouts of my missing daughter.  He pointed at number 13.

She waved at me.

I could barely speak, could find no voice  as the realization (and complex set of emotions) came sweeping over me.  I was a mother suddenly aware that my daughter had changed, right before my very eyes, seemingly imperceptibly, but in reality, profoundly. I knew she was taller than me now. But when had she grown up? When had her face taken that shape and her hair, now pulled completely off her face, turned adult-like?  When had she changed beyond my recognition?

I cannot describe, in words, the feeling inspired by the revelation that I’d been looking at my daughter with such old eyes that I couldn’t even find her on the basketball court that day.  Time for a new mental image.

And that’s really the way it works I think.  You get a picture in your mind’s eye and it is stuck there until you update it.  Sometimes you are forced (by life events) to see the change!  Sometimes you make a concerted effort because you know it’s essential.

People sometimes tell me that the library of their youth is the definition of a library.  While that’s an extremely pleasant and personal memory, it is not truly an accurate picture of today’s library.  Libraries have changed a lot.  The world has changed a lot.

What is your mental image of a library?

If you’ve been to any library lately, your view is probably different than someone who hasn’t been to a library in years.  If you have visited libraries in other communities, it’s likely you have some images in your mind that are far different than the Dwight Foster Public Library snapshot. Your mind’s eye might even show you a “dream library”, a synthesis of a whole group of the best libraries that you’ve seen, anywhere…at any time.

Now is a great time for you to look and see, with new eyes, our own local library.   Look at the beauty of what we have, being mindful of the improvements we really need to make, so that we can foster important, vital growth for our community’s future generation.

See the change that has already happened.  Envision the change to come.


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