About OWLS

What is OWLS?

  • a federation of the public libraries in Outagamie and Waupaca counties. Each member library is completely autonomous, funded and governed locally, but contracts with OWLS for the purpose of coordinating and strengthening services. OWLS does not ordinarily provide direct library service; instead, it serves patrons through their local library. (Look at Member Libraries for a complete listing of federation participants.)
  • one of fifteen public library systems in the state. Each system is funded primarily by state aids, which enable the systems to carry out the service requirements set forth in Chapter 43 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
  • the agent designated by Outagamie and Waupaca counties to provide access to library service for all residents of the system area. Each year the system requests county funds to reimburse member libraries for serving area residents who do not have municipal library service.
  • governed by a fifteen member board of trustees representing both counties. The trustees, appointed for three-year terms by the counties, meet monthly.

OWLS Provides the Following Services

Borrowing Privileges

Residents of the system may use any of the public libraries in the two counties. In addition, OWLS has agreements which allow patrons to use many other public libraries in the state.

Interlibrary Loan

OWLS member libraries borrow materials directly from each other and from the libraries in Nicolet Federated Library System that belong to OWLSnet. If an item is not available in the area, the librarian can ask system staff to borrow the material from other libraries throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Materials located through interlibrary loan are sent directly to the local library for the patron's use.


OWLS' delivery program is committed to putting desired materials in the hands of library patrons as quickly as possible. To achieve that goal, the system engages in several different activities. OWLS contracts with Waltco, Inc. to deliver materials to all member libraries five times per week. The system also exchanges materials daily with the Nicolet Federated Library System in Green Bay in order to facilitate borrowing among the members of OWLSnet. In addition, OWLS participates in an intersystem delivery service that facilitates sharing materials throughout the state; this service picks up and delivers materials at OWLS five times a week. The system also mails materials to libraries not served by any of the above services.

Library Development

OWLS sponsors a number of continuing education activities each year for librarians and trustees. Each year the system also holds informal meetings to facilitate discussion among the member librarians about issues and problems of mutual concern. The system also provides scholarship aid for those who wish to attend other workshops and conferences.

Grants for programming from the system help children's librarians bring special activities to their communities each summer. In addition, the system sponsors special meetings and programs during the year to help children's librarians to share and develop their skills.

OWLS professional staff also offers consulting services on all facets of library service and development.

OWLS offers design and printing services for the member libraries and system programs. System staff design and print newsletters, brochures, booklists, flyers, bookmarks, and other materials.


The Appleton Public Library serves as the system's resource library. OWLS works with Appleton to develop services and collections that address the needs of the entire system area. For example, the system contracts with Appleton to provide original cataloging of materials for the shared automation network (OWLSnet).


OWLS operates a shared, integrated library automation network (OWLSnet) for OWLS member libraries and member libraries of the Nicolet Federated Library System. OWLSnet services include circulation control, public access catalog, resource sharing, and Internet access.

OWLS professional staff offers consulting services on using microcomputers and electronic information resources effectively. Assistance with the development and maintenance of local library web sites will also be provided.


The system actively supports the work of Fox Valley Literacy each year by providing them with printing, postage, and additional support.