Two of Wisconsin's oldest libraries are connected to seminaries that date back to the 1840s. The Nashotah House Library is part of the Nashotah House Episcopal Seminary that was founded in 1842. It is pictured in the first postcard shown above. It is located in Nashotah, Wisconsin which is off of I-94 25 miles west of Milwaukee. The Salzmann Library is affiliated with the St. Francis de Sales Seminary, a Catholic seminary, located in St. Francis, Wisconsin which was founded in 1845. The Salzmann Library, shown in the second postcard, serves a larger community which include anyone who works or volunteers at the parishes, schools, and ministries in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
In 2010 the Angie W. Cox Public Library in Pardeeville will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the gift of books from Angie W. Cox that eventually evolved into the public library that exists today. The history of the library is chronicled by Thomas A. Reinbeck and Steve Thompson on the library's website. Angie Williams Cox (1870-1955) played a continuing role through financial contributions to the development of the library that bears her name. A major milestone in the library's history was its legal establishment as a corporation (but not as a public library) in 1925. The Articles of Organization for the library were signed by the library board on October 24, 1925 and the State of Wisconsin granted it corporation status on November 5, 1925. A major controversy developed over a provision in the Articles of Organization that prohibited Catholics from serving on the library board. The controversy led to a legal battle over the support of the library by the City of Pardeeville. The legal issue was finally resolved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1929. It determined that the provision prohibiting Catholics on the library board did not prevent support by the City as long as the library was open to all members of the public. In 1985 when Columbia County became a member of the South Central Library System, the Division for Library Services required that the Pardeeville library be established as a public library under Wisconsin Statutes in order to become a member of the library system. It complied with this requirement. The building shown in the postcard above was dedicated on August 26, 1934. It was the result of a major remodeling of an existing building which was accomplished with contributions from Angie Cox. The library continues to occupy this building today.
On this date 119 years ago the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) held its first conference in Madison. According to Benton H. Wilcox's history of WLA, only 26 people were in attendance. Of these 15 were librarians. The call for the conference was worded as follows: "All citizens who are interested in library work are cordially invited. ...teachers and school officers are especially requested to attend. The Association aims to help establish new libraries as well as to aid those now in existence. Practical questions in all lines of library work will be discussed and the future course of the Association will be outlined." Due to the resignation of WLA's President Klas Linderfelt there was not another conference until July 1894.
As part of National Library Week this year there is going to be a National Bookmobile Day on April 14. On the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website there is a bookmobile page which chronicles some of Wisconsin's bookmobile past. National Bookmobile Day provides an opportunity for any library that has had bookmobile service in the past to communicate that legacy to the public. There are some wonderful photographs which show the heritage and contribution of the bookmobile to public library service in Wisconsin. Why not see if you have any of these and show them off on National Bookmobile Day. If you still have a bookmobile how about a bookmobile open house. The image above shows Racine Public Library Librarian Muriel Marchant with a vehicle that was referred to as the "library car".
On February 11, 1891 (119 years ago today) a group of librarians and educational leaders gathered in the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the purpose of organizing the Wisconsin Library Association. At that time the State Superintendent's office was located in the State Capitol. Among those in attendance were K. A. Linderfelt, Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library; R. G. Thwaites, Secretary of the State Historical Society; Frank A. Hutchins, Township Library Clerk of the Department of Public Instruction; E. A. Birge, Professor of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin; Minnie M. Oakley at the State Historical Society and formerly Librarian of the Madison Public Library; and Issac S. Bradley, Assistant Librarian of the State Historical Society. Theresa West Elmendorf, Assistant Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library, played an important role in bringing the meeting about but was not present at the meeting. At the meeting Linderfelt was chosen as President, Thwaites as Vice-president, and Hutchins as Secretary-treasurer. The first conference of the Association was held in Madison on March 11, 1891. The State Capitol building shown above was where WLA was born. That building was destroyed in a fire in 1904.
On a recent trip I stopped in at both the Southwest Wisconsin Library System and the Dwight T. Parker Public Library in Fennimore, Wisconsin. The Public Library is housed in a building which is on the National Register of Historic Places . It was constructed in 1923 and was designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Starck which designed many of Wisconsin's public libraries. The style of the building is impressive and is described as follows by the Wisconsin Historical Society: "The structure incorporates Mediterranean and NeoClassical elements into a rectangular mass reminiscent of their Prairie School designs. Large brackets support the wide overhanging eaves of the clay tile roof. A central NeoClassical entrance projects from the front façade. Terracotta details such as a pediment, colonettes, arches, and bracketed sills accent the simple brick motif." The building was built through the generosity of Dwight T. Parker, a prominent local leader and banker. Parker later left a trust fund to help fund the library also. It is unusual that the library which is 87 years old does not have an addition. If you're ever passing through Fennimore it is well worth a stop. While at the SWLS I was able to pick up a few "no longer in use" library artifacts, and was able to witness the demise of their card catalog from which I salvage a few catalog cards. The SWLS celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
Thanks to Paul Nelson's Retiring Guy's Digest Blog I recently became aware of a story in the Green Bay Press Gazette about the former De Pere Public Library building. I have a postcard of the building which is shown above. I found out more about the building and its history from a survey of Wisconsin's historic public libraries which was conducted by the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1999. According to the survey the building was designed by the Green Bay architectural firm of Foeller, Schober, and Berners and was erected in 1936 but because of some delays it wasn't opened until 1937. The building is described as a one-story Colonial Revival building that is C-shaped in plan, wrapping around a courtyard garden. It is finished with random, coursed limestone. Below is more about the historic timeline for the De Pere library. The source for some of this information is a paper by Michael C. Vande Hei written in 1985 and entitled "History of the De Pere Public Library 1896-1968".
Public library service in De Pere, Wisconsin dates back to 1878 when a public library was established in the Congregational Church by Reverend E. P. Salmon. In 1889 a public library board was organized to oversee the Salmon collection. The City of De Pere acquired the collection in 1896. In 1937 the public library opened in a new building which was partially funded by the Public Works Administration, a federal program. An addition was added to the building in 1963. In 1968 the De Pere Public Library became part of the newly created Brown County Library. The 1937 building was closed in 2003 and the library was moved to the new Kress Family Branch Library.
Harlan P. Bird (1838-1912) made his fortune in the lumber business in Northeastern Wisconsin. In 1902 he established the Wausaukee Free Library from his own funds in the hope that it would prove "sufficiently popular to draw from places of evil resort." He was elected as a state senator in 1902 and served two terms in the legislature. He served as President of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1904-1905. The library was part of a "social hall" that also included a reading-room, lunch and dining room, and amusement room. Unfortunately the venture proved to be too costly and Senator Bird abandoned this experiment. The image above is WHi-65460 from the Wisconsin Historical Images collection and is part of a collection of public library photographs from the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Wausaukee is now served by the Wausaukee Branch of the Marinette County Consolidated Public Library Service.
The images above are from the dedication program for a new library building for Northland College in Ashland on June 14, 1941. The Jean Nicolet Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) played a large role in funding the building which was a replica of "Wakefield", the birthplace of George Washington. George C. Allez, Director of the Wisconsin Library School (now the School of Library and Information Studies at UW-Madison), gave the dedication address. The inside the brochure reads in part: "On a hilltop campus, yesterday a part of America's advancing frontier, today at the center of the teeming North American continent, is dedicated this day a new Wakefield, replica of the birthplace of the Father of His Country, sponsored by the women descendents of the gallant men who fought for freedom in the New World." The current Northland College library is the Dexter Library which is located in a more modern facility. The 1941 building is now used by the College for the admissions department.
The postcard above shows the historic Wadsworth Library which was built in 1891 and is part of the National Soldiers Home complex in Milwaukee. It is also now part of the Northwestern Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. The Soldiers Home complex was like a village and included, in addition to the library, residential buildings, a post office (Wood, Wisconsin), a recreational hall, and a chapel. The Milwaukee Soldiers Home Foundation has been established to help preserve and restore the buildings in the complex. The Wadsworth Library is designated as Building #3 in the complex and was named for a member of the Board of Managers of the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. At one point the library which served those living at the home had as many as 23,000 books. On June 30, 1998, a fire heavily damaged the library and its contents. The historic district is part of the Milwaukee Veterans Administration Medical Center complex on Milwaukee's west side.
Patricia Lynch provides this additional information about the Wadsworth Library:
The Wadsworth Library continues to serve patients of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. It is open year-round on a regular basis and receives special attention during Reclaiming Our Heritage, the annual veteran tribute and living history event at the VA Medical Center the weekend after Memorial Day. During the event it is open to the general public and is filled with displays on the history of the library and other exhibits. The West Side Soldiers Aid Society supports, among other worthy causes, the Milwaukee VA patient libraries. Information on Reclaiming Our Heritage is available at www.forohmilwaukee.org.
Each new year provides opportunities to enjoy and celebrate library history. Here is a preview of some of those opportunities in 2010.
The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center will continue to promote and celebrate Wisconsin's library heritage with its ongoing activities including this website, its library memorabilia exhibits, and the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame.
National Library Week which occurs April 11-17 is a great opportunity to make your community aware of your library's heritage. This year's theme is "Communities thrive @ your library." The Menasha Public Library will be having a special exhibit related to their Tabard Inn Library bookcase in April as part of their celebration.
The American Library Association will launch its first Preservation Week May 9-15 with the theme "Pass It On". The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) of ALA is coordinating this effort. How about a focus on preserving and/or highlighting your library's historical artifacts and archives.
Every five years the Library History Round Table undertakes the sponsorship of a Library History Seminar. This year the event will take place September 10-12 in Madison, Wisconsin. The Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison is coordinating this event. Library historians from around the country will gather to hear presentations on the role of library records as a source of data and information for print culture and library history research.
October is American Archives Month which provides an opportunity to highlight and display library history archives.
November 25 will be the 175 anniversary of the birth of Andrew Carnegie which makes 2010 a great opportunity for communities, libraries, and institutions that have benefited from Carnegie's gifts to celebrate his legacy. In Wisconsin 60 communities received Carnegie grants for 63 public library buildings and two colleges received grants for library buildings.
A number of Wisconsin libraries will celebrate significant anniversaries in 2010 which provide an opportunity to celebrate library history. Here are a few suggestions for doing that.
The second group of individuals was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in October at the WLA Conference in Appleton. This included Charles Bunge, our first living inductee.
The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit was displayed at the South Milwaukee Public Library, the Milwaukee Public Library, and the Door County Public Library. The exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Library was the most extensive exhibit that we have undertaken. An exhibit was also prepared to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Eastern Shores Library System. The WLHC also had an exhibit table at the WLA Conference in Appleton.
The Wisconsin Historical Society created a new gallery in its Wisconsin Historical Images collection featuring photographs of public libraries from the Wisconsin Free Library Commission with the assistance of Richard Wambold.
A postcard mailed in March of 1911 to announce the American Library Association Conference in Pasadena, California provides a link to one of Wisconsin's longtime special librarians. When Clarence S. Hean received this postcard he had been the Agricultural College Librarian and the University of Wisconsin for three years. He didn't complete his service in that position until June, 1952, a span of 44 years. The library he directed is now the Steenbock Memorial Library. A group of letters exchanged with Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg relating to Hean's retirement is located here. The 1911 ALA Pasadena Conference was the conference at which Theresa West Elmendorf was elected the first woman president of the American Library Association. Elmendorf is a member of the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame.
The early philosophy and work of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission is aptly communicated by the logo and and quotation on this library envelope mailed in 1901. The quotation "Had I the power I would scatter libraries over the whole land, as a sower sows his wheat field" is from Horace Mann. The logo shows a farmer scattering seed with Wisconsin Free Library Commission across the top. Later envelopes used by the WFLC have the logo but not the quotation and eventually the logo was dropped. Either Frank Hutchins or Lutie Stearns could have been responsible for the design of the stationery used by the WFLC. They jointly led the WFLC in its early years and they certainly did all they could to scatter libraries and library services throughout Wisconsin. In her tenure at the WFLC, Stearns helped establish 150 free public libraries and 1,400 traveling libraries.
As I have written in a previous post, the Wisconsin State Law Library was Wisconsin's first library. Up until 1977 the library was named the Wisconsin State Library and the head of the library had the title of State Librarian. In reality, the library had been a state law library since 1866 when the focus of collection was narrowed by law to "law books of reference and works on political science and statistics". In 1875 all books of a general nature were transferred to the State Historical Society's Library. This was not difficult since both libraries were located in the State Capitol. When the library's name changed in 1977, the head librarian became the State Law Librarian. The postal card above is addressed to John Berryman who served as State Librarian from 1876 to 1906. The card was mailed from Toronto in 1886 to acknowledge payment for books. A compete timeline of the history of the Wisconsin State Law Library including a list of the former State Librarians can be found here. Of course, Wisconsin's current "chief officer of the state library agency" also sometimes referred to as the state librarian is the Assistant State Superintendent for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning in the Department of Public Instruction. Currently that person is Richard Grobschmidt.
One way that communities in the first two decades of the 20th century sought to attract new businesses was through advertising on envelopes. These envelopes typically included pictures on the front of the envelope that depicted significant buildings and attractions in the community. The back of these envelopes included written text which made the case for locating in a particular community. During this same period new public library buildings were being built in communities across the country, many as the result of grants from philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie. So it is not surprising that libraries are often one of the buildings being depicted on the front of the envelope. The envelope above is for the community of Stoughton and it has an image of the building that housed the city hall, the library, and the opera house. This envelope was mailed in September of 1905. In December of 1905 Stoughton received a grant from Andrew Carnegie to build a separate public library building. Both buildings are still in existence in Stoughton and the Carnegie building has been incorporated into an expanded public library. A previous post shows postcards depicting both buildings. A community advertising envelope for Sheboygan can be seen here. In 1992 the Postal History Foundati0n in Tucson, Arizona received a collection of 1,204 community advertising envelopes. An analysis of the envelopes found that Wisconsin communities had the second highest number of envelopes - 75. Only Michigan with 76 envelopes had more.
The unveiling of the Wisconsin Libraries Say Cheese! publicity promotion takes place today. The promotion is part of the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) Foundation. It is another in a long history of library public relations efforts in Wisconsin. In 1896, at the American Library Association Conference in Cleveland, Lutie Stearns, Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame member, said: “There is no stratum of society not reached and influenced by some form of advertising. 'Nine-tenths of the world would rather be interested than educated, and the other tenth likes to be interested too.' The librarian, then must first interest the masses, to bring them within her doors, and then attempt to educate. 'She must first capture the eye. The eye is the sentinel of the will. Capture the sentinel and you will capture the will. The feet follow the eyes.' It is the untiring, unremitting, keeping-everlastingly-at-it-and never-taking-no-for-an answer appeal to the eyes of the people that will bring them within your portals.”
It was not until 1938 that the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) got around to establishing its first formal Publicity Committee. In 1958 the National Book Committee and the American Library Association conducted the first annual National Library Week campaign with the theme “Wake Up and Read”. In 1964 under the leadership of Gerry Somers, Director of the Brown County Public Library, WLA was given the first $1,000 Grolier Award for most effective state National Library Week program in the nation.
As a spin off of the 1962 National Library Week campaign in Wisconsin, Mrs. Bruno Bitker of Milwaukee provided the leadership for founding in 1963, the Friends of Wisconsin Libraries or FOWL. That organization was the model for the national Friends of Libraries USA which was also founded in Wisconsin.
In 1961-62 the WLA public relations committee initiated a statewide effort to “spread the word of what good library service is and can be, with a special effort to reach persons of influence.” In this effort the PR committee worked with a television station in Wausau to develop TV slides and audios, it prepared and distributed flyers explaining regional library service, contacted clubs and other organizations about including free library advertisements and articles in their publications. It prepared an exhibit of public relations materials for the annual WLA conference, and conducted public relations workshops at all the district library association meetings.
The 1970s saw the creation of a multi-year library public relations effort in Wisconsin funded with grants from the Library Services and Construction Act. This public relations project was called the Cooperative Library Information Project or CLIP. It was directed by Meriam Edsall. A major outcome of this effort was the creation of Wisconsin’s annual summer library program which became a model for the nation.
In 1995, the Council on Wisconsin Libraries (COWL) put together an ambitious cooperative public relations effort involving COWL, WLA, and the Wisconsin Educational Media Association. It resulted in the theme “Wisconsin Libraries – More than books. More than ever.” This PR effort received support from a professional public relations firm and three years of LSTA funding totaling $55,000. A highlight of this campaign was several celebrity TV ads paid for by commercial sponsors.
In 2000, the WLA Public Relations Committee coordinated Wisconsin’s celebration of the bicentennial of the Library of Congress by promoting Second Day of Issue Events around the state in conjunction with the issuing of the Library of Congress postage stamp. The committee also promoted the involvement of Wisconsin libraries in the ALA @your library public relations campaign.
In 2004, the Library Advocacy Round Table of WLA came up with an idea to tie in library promotion with the local, state, and national elections for that year. This resulted in the “I Love Libraries and I Vote” campaign and the designation by the Governor of February as Library Lovers Month in Wisconsin.
In 2005 the WLA Foundation embarked on the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries to promote a wider understanding of the value and importance of Wisconsin’s libraries. This effort has utilized a variety of public relations materials and techniques to promote Wisconsin's libraries. The Wisconsin Libraries Say Cheese! public relations effort is just one more way that Wisconsin is following Lutie Stearn’s advice to “keep-everlastingly-at-it”.
Note: Much of the content of this post was included in a presentation that I made at the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries Conference in the Spring of 2006.