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 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 online library catalog used by member libraries so library patrons can search and browse the over 2 million items available at the 24 member libraries. In addition, the CAFE Libraries mobile app is now available to download free from any app store.  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. 

Online Resource Access

Bridges Library System negotiates the purchase of online reference resources shared by member libraries, including AncestryLibrary, Gale Courses, digital magazines on Flipster, Consumer Reports, and more. This cooperative arrangement saves member libraries thousands of dollars compared to the cost of purchasing these databases individually. 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. 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. The Wisconsin Digitial Library can be accessed on the free Libby app, available to download free from any app store.

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, professional performances for each library during the summer library program, and more.

Inclusive Services

Bridges Library System offers coordination for inclusive services in libraries, including applying for LSTA grants and supporting innovative programs, such as the Library Memory Project, accessibility studies, hearing loop projects, and more.

Continuing Education

Bridges Library System sponsors and coordinates continuing education workshops and meetings 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.

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.