How Are WALS Fees Calculated?

WALS fees -- How the WALS Fee is Calculated (with examples from the proposed 2025 budget)

WALS fees are based on the library's file size (patrons and items) and on the circulation for the prior year.  There is also a base fee amount.  The proposed base fee for 2024 was $8,525.

The current formula for calculating fees has been used since 2009 (with a couple of modifications) but basing library fees on file size, circulation, and a base fee goes back at least to the late 1990s and has been accepted as a fair way of allocating the cost of this service to each library.  Many other library systems also base fee calculations on these factors. The main modification made for 2025 is that WTEC decided that no library's fee will go down, and the dollars generated will be put toward the OverDrive Advantage Account.

We begin the budget process by calculating the next year’s expenditures.  Revenues from all other sources are subtracted from the expenditures. The amount remaining gets shared among the libraries according to the formula. In 2025, WALS expenditures were about $851,300.  Of this, about $100,000 (about 12%) came from Winnefox, leaving about $751,300 to be divided among the 29 libraries, plus WCTS.

The Formula is calculated based on a library’s “file size” and circulation. “File size” is calculated by taking a snapshot of the total number of all items and all user records (including logins and library use records) in the database at the beginning of budget season (usually the first week or two of June).  Circulation is the total number of items checked out (including Withdrawn, InProcess, Damaged, bookclubs, staff, etc) in the last 3 years from the date of the File Size snapshot.  We use all records and all checkouts to better reflect a library's use of the ILS system-ass opposed to patron's use of the system as reflected in the Annual Reports.

Once we have taken the snapshots, we calculate each library’s percent of the total file size, and each library's percent of the total circulation.   Those two percentages are then averaged together to create a "Library Average Percent."   That average percentage is used to calculate the library’s initial cost.

Think of the $751,300 as a pie that needs to be completely divvied up: If one library is really active and has a high %, then not only is their slice of pie bigger, but the remaining libraries' slices must get smaller. On the other hand, if a library closes for remodeling, their slice of the pie shrinks--leaving more for everyone else to pick up. 

Closures due to the pandemic exposed how drastically circulation--and thus any 1 library's share of the pie--can fluctuate.  Therefore we are using an average of the past 3 years worth of File Size and Circulation snapshots to create the "Library Average Percent."  This has the effect of somewhat mitigating the dramatic fluctuations in circulation many libraries experience from year to year.

The initial cost per library places some libraries below the base fee. We have a base fee because there are other benefits each library receives and related expenses that each library incurs (telecom, internet, website hosting, etc) which are not directly tied to the database size or circulation. Thus the base cost represents a minimum “cost of doing business” regardless of size. So, we bring all the libraries below the base cost up to this amount ($8,525 in 2025).

There are 12 libraries that paid the base fee in 2025 (11 plus WCTS in 2025). (12 x $8525 = $102,300).
This means that the remaining 18 libraries need to pay about $649,000 ($751,300 - $102,300 = $649,000).

So, to use Neenah as an example:
1.    Neenah has a file size of 235,490 records.  This is the total of their item records in the database and all user records with a library of NEENAH. This is about 19.9% of the total file size of 1,181579 records (of above base libraries).
2.    Neenah's 3-yr circulation average is 650,267.  This is about 31.8% of the 2,042,372 items checked out by the 18 above base libraries.  
3.    Those two percentages are averaged to get 25.9%.
4.    Neenah's fee therefore is about $167,993.

Note that because I used rounded numbers for the expenditures and revenues, these calculations will be slightly different than the actual WALS fees.

When the sum of all the libraries (above and below base) is totaled, it equals the required $751,300.