Inform Wisconsin: A public library legislation and funding proposal

Seeking increased funding and legislation in support of libraries has been a long standing priority for the Wisconsin Library Association.  One of the most ambitious such efforts occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  The effort was titled “Inform Wisconsin” and was the result of the Final Report of the Task Force on Public Library Legislation and Funding to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction which was submitted in October, 1988.  Although the report addressed a large number of issues faced by Wisconsin public libraries and public library systems, the lack of adequate funding for public libraries was the most significant issue. To deal with this issue the Task Force recommended a “Public Library Foundation Program” which would ensure that every resident of the state had access to a basic level of public library service. The level of funding needed to accomplish this was deemed to be $12 per capita for a total of $73,000,000 with the funding coming from state aid.  However, up to $62,000,000 of that amount could have been used for property tax relief by local communities already funding libraries at $12 per capita.  The Inform Wisconsin report was widely discussed in the library community and endorsed by the Wisconsin Library Association.  Although a number of its legislative recommendations were accepted by the State Superintendent and ultimately enacted, the Foundation Program was never advanced as a budget proposal by the Department of Public Instruction.