It’s the main resource library for the Outagamie-Waupaca Library System (OWLS); it’s deeply involved in local Web initiatives; and it also fulfills the typical duties of local public libraries. How does the staff of the Appleton Public Library manage these and so many other activities? In Director Terry Dawson’s mind, the answer is simple: it’s exactly what the library should be doing.
“The library exists to serve the community’s needs,” he says.
One way it serves those needs is through its role as the resource library for OWLS. The library has taken a leadership role in streamlining services, testing new technologies, and assisting OWLS with maintaining a remarkable level of cooperation between the OWLS libraries.
“We see it as a partnership, a responsibility for equitable access, and an opportunity,” Dawson says. “I believe that we have a wonderful synergy with the system, where both sides give and get, but no-one takes unfair advantage, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
The library also benefits the community in non-library ways. Many have been Web-based. One is Fox Cities Online, a Web site maintained by the library that provides local information and a forum for non-profit organizations that otherwise would not have the resources for their own Web sites. Another example, Fox Valley Memory, is an ambitious digital library project produced in conjunction with the Outagamie County Historical Society. Then there is also the library’s own Web site, which has been serving the community longer than any other in Wisconsin, as it was the first public library site in the state
In addition to its all of those collaborative efforts, the Appleton Public Library also excels in providing quality services for its patrons like any other Wisconsin library. For adults, the library offers several lecture and discussion series, as well as an exhibit series that changes every two months. For young adults, the library hosts authors of teen books and a concert series called Java Jives, in which local teens perform. Finally, for children, it holds after-school activities, many reading programs and age-specific weekly story times for children from newborns up to three-year-olds.
“Family literacy is an important topic, and we hope to give children an attachment to learning and reading,” says Dawson, who notes the library has held the reading program for more than 20 years. “It's also nice if they also develop an attachment to the library!”
With its broad community support and great relationship with OWLS, the Appleton Public Library staff should have no trouble continuing to develop attachments of both the young and old throughout the Fox Valley area.
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