Tim Oppor walked out of the Goodman South Madison Branch of the Madison Public Library with a large picture book weighing down one arm and a stack of 10 CDs stretching his other hand.

“We’ve got a good library system,” said Oppor, who lives on Madison’s south side. “Every one that I’ve been to — I used to go to the Pinney Branch and the downtown one — all of them are good. I’ve never been to one I didn’t like.”

Numbers suggest that he’s one of many fans of the area’s libraries.

Wisconsin ranks in the top 10 nationally in library usage, with Dane County libraries contributing some of the highest circulation statistics in the state.

The state is ninth in total annual circulation per capita, according to data from the 2010 fiscal year compiled by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, with 11.41 checkouts from Wisconsin libraries per state resident.

In total, Wisconsin libraries saw more than 65 million checkouts in 2010, more than higher-populated states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey and Minnesota.

More than 9.3 million of those transactions came from Dane County’s 18 libraries, which operate 26 locations. They averaged 21.05 checkouts per resident in 2010, nearly double the figure for the rest of the state.

At the top of the list was the Belleville Public Library, which had 86,202 transactions, 29.49 per resident.

Bronna Lehmann, the assistant director of the Belleville Public Library, said she frequently sees the same families at the checkout counter.

“They always come to story hour and they bring in their bag of books, drop them off and while they’re here they fill the bag and they take them out,” Lehmann said. “A lot of them are checking out 10, 15, 20 books of our local materials.”

On a Saturday morning, Jon Wilde walked into the small, brick building on Belleville’s South Vine Street, put his library card on the counter and collected a handful of DVDs that librarians had put on hold for him.

“It’s partly ease and it’s partly expense, that’s for sure,” said Wilde, who lives about five miles away in the town of Exeter. “If you’re patient you can get whatever you want.”

In Madison, where a $29.5 million reconstruction of the Central Library is expected to be completed this fall, the nine locations (Central Library plus eight branch locations) accumulated more than 4.7 million checkouts in 2010, or 17.82 per resident.

Among Wisconsin’s 10 biggest library service areas as defined by the state, Madison topped the rankings of circulation per capita, with libraries in Waukesha (15.12) and Janesville (14.02) trailing. Milwaukee Public Library reported 2.7 million transactions in 2010, 4.65 per resident.

The Central Library project, which included a temporary move of the library to 126 S. Hamilton St. in late 2011, has taken a bite out of Madison’s numbers since the 2010 data, Madison library media coordinator Tana Elias said.

Circulation for 2011 was down 6 percent from 2010, and 2012 figures show another 6 percent loss from 2011.

Library officials expect circulation numbers to turn around and exceed 2010 figures when the Central Library reopens, Elias said.

Some other data from the 2010 survey:

• Ohio had the most circulation transactions per capita (16.32), followed by Oregon (16.24) and Utah (13.65). Illinois was 13th (10.34), Minnesota 14th (10.2), Iowa 16th (9.87) and Michigan 20th (9.02). West Virginia (4.36), Tennessee (4.18) and Mississippi (2.96) were at the bottom.

• Wisconsin was 14th nationally in libraries per capita, with one library (including qualifying bookmobiles) for every 12,223 residents. Vermont was first with one library for every 3,822 residents; Florida was last at 34,262.

• Wisconsin libraries got 92.4 percent of their operating revenue from local governments (the national average was 84.1 percent), 1.9 percent from the state (average 7.2 percent) and 0.6 percent from the federal government (average 0.7 percent).

• Wisconsin led the nation in interlibrary loans, sending 9.1 million items between libraries.

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(1) comment


"Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization."
Among Others, winner of the 2012 Hugo Award for best SF novel, by Jo Walton, guest of honor at Madison's own WisCon 37, this Memorial Day weekend

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