Frequently Asked Questions





Patron Experience

General Questions

Why is this exploration project taking place?

WVLS and NWLS are exploring the possibility of a joint ILS consortium because both library systems are in the process of evaluating their current Integrated Library System products and considering other vendors. There is great potential for increased support for libraries in the WVLS NWLS service area. There is also great potential to provide a better patron experience for patrons in the WVLS NWLS service area.

What is the process of this analysis?

Both systems will work through a comprehensive joint consortium exploration project to determine the value and feasibility of a merger between the two Integrated Library Systems implementations and respective ILS consortia. The process will include overarching meeting facilitation and support and:

● Process infrastructure development
● Information and data gathering
● Reporting on findings and recommendations

What are the goals of the 2023-24 NICE project?

Facilitate next steps toward a merged ILS:

  • Develop a mutually agreed upon project timeline
  • Determine vendors and products to pursue
  • Determine cost of initial migration to a merged ILS 
  • Determine merged ILS annual budget projections and calculation method for membership shares
  • Make decisions on identified issues including delivery, circulation, cataloging, and database standards, and ILS support plan
  • Establish timeline for migration including implementation plan, logistics, and steps needed for a merged ILS
  • Determine record clean up processes, archiving needs, and contracted technical support necessary for a merged ILS.
  • Pursue database and record clean up, and shared ILS adjacent services, such as:
    • Implementation for cataloging utility, re-indexing of records etc. 
    • Record clean up and preliminary record matching work for bibliographic and/or patron records
    • Consulting services with ILS vendor to match field names and usage 
    • Historical data archiving to minimize data loss with a migration 
    • Discovery layer migration implementation 
  • Establish cultural groundwork, address concerns, and establish communication pathways
  • Craft policies and governance structure for cohesive membership and management

What were the goals of the 2022-2023 project?

The goals of the 2022-2023 feasibility grant were:

  • Identify concerns and barriers taking in account lessons learned from past collaboration attempts
  • Identify benefits of a merged system
  • Identify conditions that make a merged system desirable
  • Identify fiscal realities of a merged system beyond migration and into the future
  • Establish cultural groundwork, address concerns and establish communication pathways
  • Design policies and governance structure
  • Determine joint consortium overall budget and calculation method for membership shares
  • Create timeline for migration including an implementation plan, logistics, and steps needed for a unified ILS

How will it be determined if the goals of the project have been met?

All findings will be published in a final report  that will include:

  • Recommendations from targeted workgroups including Decision-making, ILS Vendor Selection, Funding Formula, Delivery, Holds Fulfillment, Records Standards and Cataloging.
  • Each consortia will vote to approve the Recommendations
  • Each System Board will vote to approve the Recommendations

What is the role of the NICE Team?

The Exploration Team will guide the exploration project overall, encourage library staff to participate in the exploration via surveys and focus groups, review survey results and focus group reports, and assist in developing a final recommendation report.

Who will make the decision about a merger?

The NWLS and WVLS Boards have final authority over merger decisions, and will make the decision after careful consideration of our respective NWLN and V-Cat consortiums’ recommendations.

Are we talking about merging Library Systems?

We are exploring the idea of sharing an ILS (Integrated Library System). An ILS is the software used to create and utilize databases of collection, patron, acquisition, and circulation records for a library. Currently, NWLS and WVLS separately use the Sierra ILS, a product of Innovative Interfaces Incorporated. 

Why aren’t more library systems involved in the NICE Project?

From previous attempts at merging multiple groups to use one ILS, we believe it is easier to start by bringing two groups of libraries together.

How similar or different are NWLS and WVLS when it comes to size and funding?

NWLS and WVLS are similar in the number of libraries served. WVLS serves 25 libraries with 35 locations in seven counties. NWLS serves 29 libraries with 31 locations in eight counties.

 The consortium budgets for both are similar. In 2023, the WVLS budget was $232,475. The NWLN budget was $263,079.

The service population for WVLS is 285,977 (in 2022), and for NWLS is 157,279 (in 2022).

Additional information for comparing public library systems in Wisconsin can be found here:

What is the cost break down for the NICE Project?

The June 2023 NICE Report and Key Takeaways include information about cost and the Funding Formula Recommendation details how costs would be distributed.

We anticipate that cost savings are possible. Prior to this project, both systems requested quotes from ILS vendors, both standalone and combined. A review of these quotes was completed to identify any potential savings. 

It is not possible to provide reliable cost estimates at this time. As NICE Project financial information is available it will be shared with the NICE team and with each consortia (NWLN and V-Cat). 

Each consortia (NWLN and V-Cat) will follow their usual processes for approving proposed NICE budgets as the project moves forward.

Are possible consortium membership changes being considered as part of the NICE project?

There are no anticipated membership changes to NWLN or V-Cat Consortium. A new consortia agreement is part of the NICE project. According to current membership agreements and bylaws, libraries may join or leave either consortia.

Delivery Questions

How will items in transit be handled?

Specific details of resource sharing will be determined after the feasibility phase of the project is complete.

Will delivery transit times remain the same?

The NICE Delivery Recommendation is for NWLS and WVLS to continue with their current courier/delivery vendors. Courier/delivery is expected to continue within each service area on the same schedule. This includes the daily delivery between the two system hubs in Ashland and Wausau. The Holds Fulfillment workgroup is currently considering ILS settings including prioritizing local holds and fulfilling holds within each system before filling holds across systems to reduce the number of items in transit, and transit times.

ILS Questions

What are the advantages of selecting Koha ILS?

The ILS Vendor Selection Workgroup made this recommendation after utilizing the NICE Project’s decision-making matrix.

  • Koha works with both Aspen and Pika and will allow for continuing on two discovery layers if needed.
  • Implementation with Koha is more equitable for both systems and member libraries; migrating together could facilitate the development of shared policies and procedures. 
  • Lower costs annually and less risk of yearly large increases. 
  • Most sustainable choice. Bywater continues to grow and supports larger consortia, as well as continuously develops new features and enhancements for the Koha software.

What about WVLS’ High Demand circulation rules for new materials?

Specific answers about ILS functionality and policies will be determined after the feasibility phase of the project is complete.

If I’m at a WVLS library and search Sierra for a patron, will a Northern Waters patron show up in Sierra?

Specific answers about ILS functionality and policies will be determined after the feasibility phase of the project is complete.

Are NWLS and WVLS going to be reducing the amount of ILS Administration and Support staff as part of this project?

Reducing ILS Administration and Support staff is not being considered as part of the NICE Project.

Patron Experience Questions

If a patron searches for materials in the library catalog will they see all materials from NWLN and V-Cat libraries?

Specific details of the public catalogs will be determined after the feasibility phase of the project is complete.

Meet the NICE Exploration Team

  • Alexander Johnson, Marathon County Public, Library Support Services Manager
  • Gina Rae, NWLS Database and Support Specialist
  • Jackee Johnson, NWLS ILS Administrator
  • Katie Zimmermann, WVLS ILS Administrator
  • Molly Lank-Jones, Hayward Library Director
  • Peggy O’Connell, Minocqua Library Director
  • Rachel Metzler, WVLS Database and Support Specialist
  • Sue Heskin, Superior Library Director
  • Tammie Blomberg, Rib Lake Library Director
  • Teresa Schmidt, Mercer Library Director
  • Sara Klemann, Eagle River Library Director
  • Kelly Wiisanen, Superior Public Library, Youth and Family Resources Manager
  • Laurie Ollhoff, Merrill Library Director
  • Katelyn Sabelko, Marathon County Public Library, Library Services Manager