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The History of MORE

While we were all busy last year with things like a global pandemic and figuring out how to do everything with Zoom, MORE quietly turned 20 years old.  

You’re probably most familiar with the public face of MORE: the online shared catalog. It’s so easy and quick to search and request items from the catalog! How did we get here? 

1970-1990: setting the stage 

Sharing isn’t new to public libraries. The creation of the Wisconsin regional public library systems began in the 1970s. At about the same time, the Council of Wisconsin Libraries (COWL) created the Wisconsin Interlibrary Loan Service (WiLS) to “provide access to the extensive resources available in the UW Madison campus library collections.” By 1973 WiLS was working with its Minnesota counterpart (MINITEX) and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to extend its services to all Wisconsin public libraries. (WiLS has a full history on its site.)  In 1983, DPI Reference & Loan Library launched the WISCAT statewide catalog on microfiche.

1990s: Coming Together 

By the 1990s libraries were looking for ways to streamline how they shared information and materials. While interloan options gave people access to a world of resources, you had to go through a librarian to search for and request those materials.  Sometimes it could take weeks to get your item, even if it was owned by a nearby library. In-system couriers and the statewide delivery network were being developed to meet the demand for sharing materials. 

In 1993 St. Croix County libraries began exploring a shared service and Barron County libraries were independently developing BCLIC. (BCLIC was active until 2008.)

In 1996 the St. Croix County Board dissolved their county’s library service, so the libraries had to regroup. They asked IFLS for help developing an automation system for sharing resources, but the numbers weren’t working. The equation tipped when L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library (LEPMPL) and Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) got wind of the idea and wanted in. That made a shared system technologically and fiscally feasible. A name was announced for the planned shared system in May 1999 and MORE was born. Kathy Setter (director, Deer Park library), Steve Stoflet (LEPMPL) and Clem Guthro (CVTC) formed a committee to choose a vendor. (Answer to the insider trivia game question: they picked Innovative.)  

The Tech Explosion  

The 90s was a decade of enormous expansion in technology. Remember: the very first website was published in 1991! Average dial-up internet speeds were just 56 kbps in the late 90s, but people were all in for the new technology. (Remember CompuServe?). By 1999 IFLS and a handful of IFLS-member libraries had launched websites. An IFLS newsletter headline announced, “Speedy Wide Area Network comes to IFLS Libraries.”  

On the state level in 1999, WISCAT released its catalog in a ziggy new CD format, the Wisconsin Virtual Library was in development and BadgerLink was established. Oh, and people were panicking a little about Y2K.

A New Millenium: Elevating Sharing to a New Level 

After a lot of work developing bylaws and governance, hammering out staffing and systems,  adding materials to the shared catalog, creating patron records, developing a public-facing website, and training staffMORE launched with 21 libraries in June 2000. “The development of MORE has elevated sharing to a new level,” said Shaleen Culbert-Kivlin in a Fall 2001 IFLS Directions newsletter. The easy searching and quick delivery that MORE offered was immediately popular.

Kathy Setter started working with IFLS under contract in 2002 to train library staff, which continues to be a big part of IFLS’s work with MORE.

Another Big Step

MORE started as an independent organization with IFLS as a fiscal agent. By 2004 that had become unwieldy and MORE started looking for ways to rework its relationship with IFLS. After two long and intense days of discussion, the Directors Council decided that MORE would become a service of IFLS, with IFLS providing staffing and administrative support. “That was a big deal,” said Kathy Setter. In early 2005 Kathy became the MORE Database and Project Manager. 

So Many Items 

The logistics were an enormous undertaking. Just physically moving the quantity of materials was (and is) a logistical challenge, and one of Maureen Welch’s first tasks at IFLS was to find a solution. IFLS started using Waltco in May 1999. Waltco could deliver to all ten counties served by MORE and could handle sorting all that material, a task which everyone realized would soon outgrow the space available in the IFLS office. That was a good move! In 2000 IFLS libraries sent out about 69,000 items, which took 124 delivery stops each week. 2009 saw that number grow to about 1.7 million items shared, and 192 delivery stops each week. 

ILL and MORE Grow Together

Sharing between libraries using MORE also had a positive impact on sharing outside of the MORE network using Interlibrary Loan (ILL).

Year Items Shared through Interlibrary Loan Items Received from Interlibrary Loan
1999 39,421 40,411
2001 136,618 133,521
2009 935,938 945,290

Current Events 

We Continue to Welcome New Members 

MORE’s big news for 2024: Hawkins Area Library has officially joined MORE. Every IFLS-area library is now part of the MORE consortium. Over the last two years, with additional funding available from LSTA grants, we were able to add:

Launced in 2022: The MORE Libraries App

The MORE Libraries app allows you to

  • Instantly access your library card
  • Search the collection and save titles for later
  • Place and manage holds
  • Renew checked out items
  • Check library hours and locations
  • and more!

Better and Better 

“MORE may be the most publicly-visible of IFLS’s services and has become an integral part of how most IFLS-area patrons experience their library,” said Lori Roholt, who was hired as MORE administrator in 2009. She shared a couple ways that MORE has changed since she started. 

  • Patronhave better access to resources online: MORE’s online catalog interface has modernized and become easier to use, and access to downloadable audiobooks and e-books is a much easier and more elegant process. 
  • Focus on the patrons’ experience: patrons now deal with fewer obstacles to access library resources, can register for an e-card online, and will soon have the option of using an app for finding, requesting, and managing their account.  

“MORE is way more than a shared catalog,” added Kathy Setter. It also provides the tools that librarians need to focus on their community’s needs. For instance, “the high demands hold list helps me to know what to order and what my patrons will want,” said Lori Gilles, director of Durand Community Library. 

It’s a Team Effort

The collaborative nature of MORE is the foundation for its success. Libraries are involved in guiding the direction of the service through the Directors Council, and they inform policies and procedures by participating in committees. IFLS staff who primarily work with MORE (Setter, Roholt, and Bridget Krejci, MORE Project Manager hired in 2015) provide support and training for the shared automation system and all its related resources and functions. But every IFLS employee contributes  to the success of MORE: computer support and network management staff ensures libraries can run online tools, catalogers make sure all libraries’ materials are findable, marketing staff pull catalog info into library websites and promote MORE-related services, delivery services move the things patrons request, ILL staff help patrons get things from outside of MORE but make sure it functions like a regular checkout, administrative staff pay MORE’s bills and take MORE meeting minutes, and the IFLS Director is a standing member of MORE’s Directors Council and Executive Committee. 

The next time you open the MORE online catalog you’ll have a better idea of all the people, past and present, that make that remarkable service possible!