About Bridges

Bridges Library System is a state funded library system in southeastern Wisconsin.  Founded in 1981 as the Waukesha County Federated Library System, it transitioned to a two county system on January 1, 2016 when Jefferson County joined and the name was changed to Bridges Library System.  The library system provides services to its 24 member libraries.  Our mission: The Bridges Library System strengthens member libraries by fostering collaboration and innovation.

We provide a variety of services (described below) to our libraries–continuously seeking opportunities to maximize resources, leverage our buying power, and share costs.  You can learn more about us by watching a video produced by Milwaukee Public Television.  Interested in sharing info about us with your library board?  Your county board?  Your city council members or state legislators?  Download a handout here.

CAFÉ (Catalog Access for Everyone)

Bridges Library System manages the CAFÉ automation system used by member libraries to offer their catalog to the public.  It’s a Polaris-based Integrated Library System (ILS) and includes over 2 million items available at the 24 member libraries.  Each library has the ability to customize the banner for its own local needs, for example to promote an upcoming author visit.  New in 2014 was the addition of library and community organization events into the catalog.  Simply click on the “Events and Organizations” tab and you can search for library events throughout Jefferson and Waukesha Counties.  Go to CAFÉ.

Database Management Services

Bridges Library System oversees the CAFE database and cataloging process to ensure catalog integrity and offer a high quality user experience.  See more here.

Online Fee-based Reference Database Access

Bridges Library System negotiates the purchase of online reference resources shared by member libraries. This cooperative arrangement saves member libraries thousands of dollars compared to the cost of purchasing these databases individually.  The access to databases allows any citizen in Jefferson and Waukesha Counties ready access to fee-based proprietary databases, such as Consumer Reports and Ancestry.com. Go to databases.

E-Content Management and Support 

Bridges Library System provides management and support of the Jefferson and Waukesha Counties’ libraries’ digital access through the Wisconsin Digital Library on the OverDrive/Libby platform.  OverDrive reports that Wisconsin Digital Library is their 2nd highest user in the world with more than 5 million checkouts per year.  Read more about that here!  This vast statewide resource provides access to 39,000 e-books and 11,000 e-audios that can be downloaded directly to citizens’ computers and devices.  New in 2014 was the beginning of the Bridges Library System contribution of local content to the statewide digital library catalog.  The Wisconsin Digital Library content is funded with both local library funds and library system funds.  In addition to the basic subscription, the library system participates in the “Advantage Program” designed to shorten waiting periods for citizens in Jefferson and Waukesha Counties.  Go to Wisconsin Digital Library.  Learn about Libby, the app that makes using the digital library easy peasy!

Interlibrary Loan and Delivery Service

Even though the Bridges libraries own over 2.2 million items, some items aren’t owned by any of the 24 libraries.  In those cases, materials can be requested from other libraries!  You can see the state library catalog, WISCAT, here. Please contact your local library to make the request and the Bridges Library System delivery service will bring the items requested to the local library.  Bridges Library System pays for Monday through Friday delivery service at each member library as well as for the link to the statewide delivery service.

Internet Service

Public libraries in Jefferson and Waukesha Counties offer access to the Internet using a high speed connection provided to each library in part through grant funds awarded to Bridges Library System.  Bridges Library System manages the connection between the internet service provider, the network provider, and the libraries.  Bridges Library System offers web hosting and email services to member libraries.

Reference Service

Got a tough question from a library patron?  Questions requiring research or special resources can be referred by local libraries to the System’s resource library, the Waukesha Public Library. Responses are sent back to the local library.  The resource library also purchases items for of interest to library staff.  Go to Resource Library Services.

Youth Services

Bridges Library System offers a variety of support for youth services including leadership from a Bridges Library System librarian dedicated to youth services and special needs.  Bridges Library System sponsors a summer library program workshop for youth services staff, Kids’ Choice Award program, 1000 Books before Kindergarten program support, early literacy grants, summer library program incentives, 3 professional performances for each library during the summer library program, a listserv for youth services staff members and more.  Bridges Library System is currently working with UW-Milwaukee on further developing an app for the 1000 Books before Kindergarten program to make recording books easy and fun for families.  The app went live in 2015 and was updated in 2016. Version 3.0 is planned for 2020.  Go to Early Literacy, Kids’ Choice or Summer Library Program to learn more about our exciting youth programs.

Inclusive Services

Bridges Library System offers coordination for special needs services in libraries, including applying for LSTA grants and supporting innovative programs, such as the Lake Country, Purple Springs, Four Points, and Wild Plum Memory Projects.  The library system was awarded grants to get hearing loops in libraries and assisted libraries in reviewing their facilities for accessibility. Go to Hearing Loops or Memory Project.

Continuing Education

Continuing education workshops and meetings on library topics are sponsored by Bridges Library System to help members’ library staff and board members keep up with developments in the library field.  Additionally, CE grants are available for the purpose of professional development for library staff. Go to Continuing Education Opportunities.


Bridges Library System personnel work one-on-one with library staffs and local library boards whenever individualized professional help is needed.  From answering questions about the annual report, to providing assistance with setting up a website, to providing new director orientations, to helping with planning, the staff is ready and able to assist member libraries.


Bridges Library System provides marketing and promotion services and materials to help promote the value of the member libraries and Bridges Library System to the public.  See more here.

Special Equipment

Bridges Library System provides equipment for use in member libraries as well as outreach bins that allow libraries to easily set up for events outside the library. Go to Equipment for Booking.

Online, Instructor-Led “Gale Courses” Classes 

Bridges Library System will offer six-week long courses taught by college instructors and experts in the field, ensuring a high-quality, high-impact educational experience for all ages.  For more information and to see the course catalog, go to Gale Courses offered by Bridges Library System.

E-Magazine Access (Flipster)

Bridges Library System will help fund and manage the access to 50 e-magazines for residents of Jefferson and Waukesha Counties.  A CAFE library card will be the gateway to access for popular magazines in electronic format that can be downloaded to computers and personal devices. Go to Flipster.

County Library Planning and County Funding Administration

Counties are the building blocks of Wisconsin’s regional library system structure.  Bridges Library System provides administrative services to the county library planning committee of Waukesha County and the county library board of Jefferson County.  Bridges Library System also administers the county funding formulas and makes annual budget requests to the appropriate county committees and boards.  Bridges Library System receives and validates all adjacent county library requests, oversees the contract with Lakeshores Library System, and administers county library payments in Waukesha County.   You can read more about the Jefferson County Library Service here.  The Waukesha County Library Planning Committee recently completed a year-long planning process and adopted a 5 year plan which you can read about here.