Winding Rivers Library System


800 Main Street
La Crosse, Wisconsin 54601-4122
(608) 789-7151

Library Services for West Central Wisconsin: Buffalo, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Trempealeau, and Vernon Counties

System Mission - To promote, plan for, and facilitate library development and cooperation in the seven-county area.

What is a Public Library System?

A public library system in Wisconsin is an agency formed under Chapter 43 of the state statutes by a county or a group of counties wishing to cooperate to develop library services. Winding Rivers Library System (WRLS) is the system formed by Buffalo, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Trempealeau, and Vernon Counties to serve the libraries in west central Wisconsin. WRLS, with a service area of 5000 square miles and a population of over 250,000 is one of seventeen public library systems in the state.

When did WRLS begin?

WRLS began as the La Crosse Area Library Development in 1965: the product of a demonstration project funded by a federal grant. At the end of the project in 1970, Juneau, La Crosse, and Monroe Counties decided to continue the cooperation and formed the La Crosse Area Library System with the headquarters in La Crosse. Trempealeau County joined in 1973; Vernon County joined in 1978; Jackson and Buffalo Counties joined in 1979. Because of the expanding area of the system, the name changed in 1978 to the Winding Rivers Library System.

How is WRLS funded?

Winding Rivers receives about 70 percent of its funds from the state through the Department of Public Instruction. Another 25 percent comes from the seven counties that participate in the System. Remaining funds comes from federal and miscellaneous sources.

How is WRLS governed?

WRLS is governed by a board of trustees whose twenty members are appointed by the county boards of supervisors. Membership is apportioned as closely as possible by the population of each county.

How many libraries participate in WRLS?

There are thirty-one legal public libraries, ninety-four school libraries in twenty-five districts, three academic libraries, and six special libraries that are members. Please see the map for specific locations.

Who does WRLS serve?

The philosophy behind library systems in Wisconsin is that they will improve library service by strengthening local libraries, WRLS' primary clients, then are the public librarians of the region. By assisting the librarians, we expect to enhance library services for every resident..

What Services does WRLS provide?

Interlibrary Loan: WRLS operates a clearinghouse for requests for materials which users want but which their local library does not own. WRLS will search for and retrieve materials from throughout the state and the nation. This service is available from any participating service outlet.

Collection Development: WRLS helps individual libraries to build their own collections by providing a grant for materials. WRLS handles the ordering, cataloging, and processing of these materials so that when the library receives them they are ready for patron use. WRLS also develops a System collection which is available for use by local libraries and is rotated among the members. This collection tends to contain specialty items such as large print books, books-on-tapes, and videocassettes.

Delivery Service: WRLS provides twice weekly van delivery service to each of the member libraries. The delivery is designed to more efficiently move materials among members. These materials include items requested through interlibrary loan, rotating collections, gift books, and memos and correspondence. WRLS also provides toll free telephone access so that all librarians can easily and inexpensively contact System staff.

Continuing Education Workshops: WRLS develops and presents or sponsors five to nine workshops each year for librarians and trustees from participating libraries. These workshops deal with current issues in librarianship as well as methods for serving library users more effectively. The workshops also help the public librarians to meet the criteria for maintenance of their state certification. There is no charge for workshops.

Consultant Services: WRLS provides professional staff with expertise in various areas to act as consultants to System members (librarians, trustees, and municipal officials). Consultants will address questions relating to state requirements and issues, grant writing and implementation, building and space planning, public relations, automation, library standards and operations, programming (particularly the summer reading program), and continuing education. As with other services, members are not charged for consultant services.

System Borrowers' Cards: In order to facilitate use of any library in the System area by any person in the area, WRLS provides each library the opportunity to issue WRLS library cards to all their users. WRLS provides the registration forms and library cards to the libraries at no cost. The WRLS library card allows the holder to use any library in Wisconsin which is participating in a library system. WRLS negotiates and oversees contracts which allow this reciprocal borrowing.

INFOPASS: WRLS offers the INFOPASS service as a method for an individual with a specific need to get access to a library facility which is not normally open to the general public. INFOPASSES are issued by participating libraries.

Public Relations Services: WRLS provides staff to handle design, layout, and production of public relations and promotional materials such as bookmarks, brochures, flyers, posters, and publicity releases to local media. WRLS also produces a newsletter, Whirlpools, which comes out six times each year to keep members informed of events throughout the system and the state.

Administration: Finally, WRLS provides administrative services to ensure that all contracts and agreements are maintained and that all members meet necessary requirements so that their sharing in the System's benefits is not jeopardized. WRLS administrators will represent the membership at state meetings and conferences, and carry news back to the members.


The Winding Rivers Library System does not discriminate on the basis of disability in the admission or access to, or treatment or employment in, its programs or activities. Winding Rivers Library System has designated a staff person to coordinate compliance with the non-discrimination requirements contained in section 35.107 of the Department of Justice regulations. Information concerning the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the rights provided thereunder, are available from the ADA coordinator. For such information, please call (608) 789-7151 (TDD# 789-7101) and ask for the "WRLS ADA Coordinator".


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