New Program Provides Funding to 38 Wisconsin Public Libraries [Press Release]

CONTACT: David Fields,

Madison–The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) is awarding grants to 38 public libraries across Wisconsin to develop their East Asia-related collections through a new program called East Asia in Wisconsin.

CEAS is a federally funded National Resource Center for the study of East Asia in Wisconsin that seeks to foster greater understanding of the region through the support of teaching, scholarship, and public education.

The idea of working with public libraries sprang from a history of successful collaborations in the past and also from research that shows public libraries are some of the most trusted institutions in the United States.

“Public libraries are natural partners in the Wisconsin Idea, which our center and faculty take very seriously.” Said CEAS associate director David Fields “We decided to use some of our resources to help libraries provide high-quality materials and programming to patrons looking for information on East Asia.”

CEAS partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) Public Library Team in order to share the grant opportunity with libraries across the state.

“The timing of this program aligned perfectly with two emerging needs in public libraries today,” said Cindy Fesemyer, DPI’s Adult and Community Engagement Consultant. “Libraries can help lead the way in combating racism, especially perceptions of Asian cultures in this time of COVID-19. Additionally, libraries, like so many public institutions, will be facing budget shortfalls that this grant program will help counterbalance.”

The response from public libraries was enthusiastic. Applications came in from 13 of the 16 library systems in the state. While nearly all libraries applied to use some of the funding for collections, many also applied to offer East Asia-related programming in their communities, from outdoor story walks, to book clubs, to virtual sessions with local Chinese chefs.

“I was blown away by the programming ideas,” said Fields. “CEAS staff was so impressed by the applications that they reshuffled some of their priorities to find the resources to fund twice the number of libraries through this program.”

The COVID-19 pandemic forced CEAS to reimagine its outreach model, which normally involves bringing people together to discuss issues connecting East Asia in Wisconsin. Last year its East Asia Now series held public forums around Wisconsin on the trade tensions between China and the U.S.

“The trade war with China, COVID-19, trade issues with Korea and Japan, and North Korean nuclear weapons have all been in the headlines during the past year, meaning we have had plenty to do,” said Fields, “but the pandemic forced us to rethink how we fulfill our mission.”

While CEAS moved some of its programming online, it was also looking for ways to reach people around the state in a tangible manner.

CEAS intends East Asia in Wisconsin to become an annual program and hopes to use it to find many new partners to execute its mission and to fulfill the Wisconsin Idea.

East Asia in Wisconsin grant recipients

Beloit Public Library, Beloit

Milton Public Library, Milton

New Berlin Public Library, New Berlin

Hartland Public Library, Hartland

Menomonee Falls Public Library, Menomonee Falls

Waukesha Public Library, Waukesha

Butler Public Library, Butler

St. Croix Falls Public Library, St. Croix Falls

Amery Area Public Library, Amery

Graham Public Library, Union Grove

Aram Public Library, Delavan

Burlington Public Library, Burlington

Chilton Public Library, Chilton

Manitowoc Public Library, Manitowoc

W.J. Niederkorn Library, Port Washington

Germantown Community Library, Germantown

Plymouth Public Library, Plymouth

Shawano County Library, Shawano

Brown County Library, Green Bay

Marinette County Consolidated Public Library Services, Marinette

Waupaca Area Public Library, Waupaca

Appleton Public Library, Appleton

Scandinavia Public Library, Scandinavia

Stoughton Public Library, Stoughton

McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids

Jane Morgan Memorial Library, Cambria

Sun Prairie Public Library, Sun Prairie

Madison Public Library, Madison

E.D. Locke Public Library, McFarland

Rock Springs Public Library, Rock Springs

Platteville Public Library , Platteville

McIntosh Memorial Library, Viroqua

Alma Public Library, Alma

Galesville Public Library, Galesville

Kendall Public Library, Kendall

Independence Public Library, Independence

Elisha D. Smith Public Library, Menasha

Marathon County Public Library, Wausau