As might be expected, there is a direct correlation between the grandeur of a library building and the number of postcards that have depicted the library building. So it is not surprising that the Central Library of the Milwaukee Public Library which was completed in 1898 is depicted on a great many picture postcards. In my personal collection, I have over 20 different Milwaukee Public Library postcards. The year 1898 is significant in the world of postcards since this is the year that Congress authorized Private Mailing Cards that could be mailed at the one cent rate. Previously postcards required postage of two cents. This was the beginning of what is considered to be the golden age of picture postcards which lasted until the beginning of World War I. There is nothing special about the view of the Milwaukee Public Library on the postcard which is shown above. However, the address side of the postcard shows that this card was carried on the LZ127 Zeppelin air ship from Lakehurst, N. J. to Friedrichshafen, Germany and back. This make the postcard very special to philatelist who collect mail that has been flown on Zeppelins. The postcard below is an unusual double postcard which is twice the size of a standard postcard.
I previously wrote a post on Carnegie library buildings that have been converted to bed and breakfasts. The Library Hall Bed and Breakfast in Ladysmith, Wisconsin is one of only two such arrangements that I am aware of in the United States. The other is in Sterling, Colorado. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Ladysmith and see the Library Hall Bed and Breakfast and have included some photos above.
On a recent trip "Up North", I had a chance to visit one of Wisconsin's log cabin libraries. In this instance it was the Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin. I have an old postcard of the library and I originally wrote about the library on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website thinking it was the only, or at least the oldest, such library in the state. I was quickly informed that there was another older log cabin library in Wabeno, Wisconsin which is the Wabeno Public Library. I then posted an additional entry on the WLHC website. Both libraries are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wisconsin Historical Society maintains a listing of buildings on the State and National Registers of Historical Places. The entry for the Forest Lodge Library indicates that the library was donated in 1925 by Mary Livingston Griggs, a prominent member of society in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Griggs who also designed the library dedicated it to her mother in memory of their family lodge and estate at nearby Lake Namekagon. A short vacation on Lake Namekagon was the purpose of my recent trip. The Wisconsin Historical Society entry for the Wabeno log cabin library indicates that it was originally built as the Chicago and North Western Railroad Land Office in 1875. It was evidently turned over to the City of Wabeno to be used as a public library in 1923. Both Libraries are on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.
Note: To find other Wisconsin libraries on the Wisconsin Historical Society's listing of buildings on the State and National Registers of Historical Places, choose Education as the Historic Function and Libraries as the Historic Subfunction. Select "All Counties" if you want to see historic libraries in the whole state.
Henry E. Legler was inducted into the Wisconsin Library of Fame on October 22, 2009. He served as Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) from 1904 to 1909. During his tenure in that capacity he left an important legacy to the state's libraries. He established the Wisconsin Library Bulletin in 1905 which played a major role in conveying information and knowledge to the Wisconsin library community. Under his leadership the library school which later became the School of Library and Information Studies of the University of Wisconsin - Madison was founded as part of the WFLC. He continued the public library development of his predecessor Frank A. Hutchins and the expansion of the traveling library system. While Secretary of the WFLC he also served without salary as the first secretary of the University of Wisconsin Extension Division. He became actively involved in the national library activities and was elected as the first chair of the League of Library Commissions in 1905. Building on booklists established by the WFLC, he founded the Booklist of the American Library Association (ALA) in 1904 and served as its editor until 1916. He was a member and chair of the ALA Publishing Board. He served as ALA President in 1912-13. After leaving Wisconsin in 1909 he became Director of the Chicago Public Library, a post he served in until his death in 1917. Legler was instrumental in the relocation of the headquarters of the American Library Association from Boston to Chicago in 1909. Legler was born in Palermo, Sicily on February 22, 1861. His family immigrated to the United States where they settled in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1873. After completing his education in La Crosse, he worked as a newspaper reporter in both La Crosse and Milwaukee. He served for one term as a member of the Wisconsin Assembly in 1888-1890. He became Secretary of the Milwaukee Board of Education (superintendent of schools) in 1890. Legler wrote several books including Library Ideals which was edited by his son and published in 1918 after his death.
A report of Legler's resignation from the WLHC is included in the Wisconsin Library Bulletin issue of Sept.-Oct. 1909. A report of his death appears in the October 1917 issue of the Wisconsin Library Bulletin. Legler is included in the Dictionary of American Library Biography and the Wisconsin Dictionary of History. He was also one of eighteen library leaders included in the publication Pioneering Leaders in Librarianship (ALA, 1953). He is also included in Wisconsin Authors and Their Works by Charles Rounds (1918).
The Wisconsin Library Bulletin was begun in 1905 by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission under the leadership of Henry E. Legler. It continued publication through 1984. It is the most comprehensive account of Wisconsin’s library history for that period. It includes a wealth of information which can be utilized by libraries and those interested in local and state history to tell the story of Wisconsin’s libraries. Although the primary focus of the bulletin was initially public library development, the magazine includes information about libraries of all types. It documents a wide variety of library related activities and events which occurred during that period including staff appointments and changes, building projects, library association meetings, library education and continuing education events, legislation, gifts and appropriations, and grant programs including the Library Services Act and the Library Services and Construction Act. Through the involvement of the University of Wisconsin - Madison General Libraries in the Google Books project, the Wisconsin Library Bulletin has been scanned and many early issues of the magazine are now appearing in Google Books. Locating and accessing periodicals through Google Books is often a difficult process. I have been able to locate the compilations for 1905, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1917, and 1922. You can search these compilations by keyword and an interesting exercise would be to search for your library in them. I will continue to keep looking for additional yearly compilations.
I just became aware of a list of "50 Reasons to Love Your Local Library". I like number 33 which states: "Your local library is a part of your heritage; your parents likely went there, and perhaps their parents before them." It's not clear to me how you can love libraries and not love library history. People who use libraries, people who like libraries, people who value libraries, and people who appreciate libraries can be and often are oblivious to the history of libraries, but if you love libraries you ought to love their history. I think the "I Love Libraries" campaign and website of the American Library Association is a good approach to promoting America's libraries. It should have a library history component, however. A few years ago, the Wisconsin Library Association launched the campaign "I Love Libraries and I Vote" to demonstrate to decision makers that people who feel strongly about libraries are active in the political process. Part of that campaign involved mailing postcards similar to the one above from the Beloit (WI) Public Library to elected officials. On the back of the card, the sender provided a personal message on why the library was important to him or her. One of those reasons could have and should have been that the library has a legacy of making a difference and changing lives in the community. That legacy is worth acknowledging and celebrating.
Note: This blog entry also appeared in The Library History Buff Blog.
One of Wisconsin's earliest and most unusual libraries was that of Territorial Governor James Duane Doty (1799-1865). While serving as Territorial Governor (1841-1844) in Madison, Doty made his own personal library of about 500 volumes available for use by the general public. Colonel George W. Bird writing in the August 1907 issue of the Wisconsin Library Bulletin described the library. He noted that there were only two regulations for its use, and these were:
"1. Any white resident between the lakes, the Catfish and the westerly hills, his wife and children, may have the privileges of this library so long as they do not soil or injure the books, and properly return them.
2. Any such resident, his wife or children, may take from the library one book at a time and retain it not to exceed two weeks, and then return it, and on failue to return promptly, he or she shall be considered, and published as an outcast in the community."
Obviously the restriction to "any white resident" was considerably less than praiseworthy,but allowing access by children was noteworthy. The image of Governor Doty is image #2617 in the Wisconsin Historical Society's Digital Collections.
This will be the first year that living individuals will be considered for the Hall of Fame. In lieu of multiple testimonials, the WLHC Steering Committee seeks documentation and supporting information of :
1) An individual's record of leadership in the Wisconsin Library Association and/or other statewide library organizations/institutions.
2) The overall importance and impact of an individual's contribution to the improvement of library service in Wisconsin.
3) An individual's contributions to the improvement of library service at the national level.
Once an individual has been nominated, he or she will continue to be considered in future years even if not selected for induction in 2009.
Induction of those individuals selected for 2009 will take place at the WLA Awards Banquet at the WLA Conference on October 22.
As reported previously the Wisconsin Historical Society is rennovating parts of its main building on State Street including it magnificent reading room. The Society recently updated information about the rennovation in the "Highlights Archives" section of its website. A previous post told about the visit to the Wisconsin Historical Society Library by attendees of the 1901 American Library Association Coference in Waukesha.
The Janesville Young Men's Association Library (a membership library) was founded in 1865. An amendment to the City of Janesville charter was enacted which provided one half of the liquor license fee for the purchase of books for the library. The Board of Supervisors for Rock County lobbied its state legislators to repeal that amendment. In the letter above written on January 8, 1872, W. S. Bowen of the Janesville Gazette asks state legislator D. S. Cheever not to support legislation that would repeal the amendment. He makes the case that the amendment "is not so great a hardship as the board of supervisors imagine". Bowen indicates his considerable interest in the library and notes that : "We have a fair start toward something which in time will be a benefit not only the city but to the county. Money is scarce and it has for a year or two past been almost impossible to maintain our library without outside aid." Bowen's effort to prevent the repeal of the library liquor license fee amendment was unsuccessful and it was repealed in 1873. In July 1881 the Janesville Young Men's Association went bankrupt. The Janesville Public Library under the Public Library Law of 1872 was established in 1884. Another blog entry on Wisconsin's membership libraries can be found here.
Wisconsin's original public library law was introduced as Assembly Bill no. 87, 1872 on January 26, 1872 by Assemblyman Alexander Graham of Janesville, Wisconsin. It was approved by the Governor on March 22, 1872. The Graham Bill was remarkably similar to a bill introduced in the Illinois Legislature on March 23, 1871 and signed into law on March 7, 1872. So similar, in fact, that there is little doubt that Wisconsin's public library law was based on the one in Illinois. A key provision is almost identical: "Every library and reading-room established under this act, shall be forever free to the use of the inhabitants of the city or village where located, always subject to such reasonable rules and regulations as the library board may find necessary to adopt and publish ...".
Erastus Swift Willcox (pictured above), while librarian of the Peoria Mercantile Library, a forerunner of the Peoria Public Library, conceived the public library law that was substantially enacted by both Illinois and Wisconsin in 1872 and which was a model for a number of other states. Although New Hampshire adopted a state public library law in 1849, a solid case has been made that Willcox's public library law was the first comprehensive state public library law. Willcox realized that the fees charged by mercantile libraries and other membership libraries were not only inadequate for funding library service but that they were significant barriers to library use by the general public. Little is known of Alexander Graham's motivation for introducing the Wisconsin law or the specifics of how he became aware of the Illinois bill. He was, however, a member of the Janesville Young Men's Association, a membership library which experienced some of the same challenges as those of the Peoria Mercantile Library. A major motivating factor in the passage of the Illinois law was the movement to create a public library for the City of Chicago. The City of Chicago passed an ordinance under the new act creating the Chicago Public Library on April 1, 1872. The Black River Falls Public Library was the first public library created under Wisconsin's public library law of 1872.
Significant anniversaries are opportunities for libraries and library organizations to acknowledge their heritage and at the same time put the spotlight on their library or organization. I generally encourage the idea of celebrating anniversaries as often as every five years and definitely every ten years. This year a number of Wisconsin public library systems have significant anniversaries. The Southwest Wisconsin Library System is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Library Services Act multi-county library cooperation project that evolved into the Southwest Wisconsin Library System. The April 7, 2009 SWLS blog entry reviews some of the history leading up to the formal formation of the system in 1974. Thus the system is also celebrating the 35th anniversary of the creation of the system. SWLS will have a celebration and awards dinner on June 19 to celebrate. The Eastern Shores Library System was formally created in 1979 and will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year. This will also be the 30th anniversary for the ESLS bookmobile and the 25th anniversary of the ESLS delivery service. A variety of events to celebrate these anniversaries are described in the May issue of "The Connection", the ESLS newsletter. Other library systems are having significant anniversaries but I am as yet unaware of any events acknowledging these anniversaries. A Library Services Act multi-county cooperative project was also initiated in 1959 in Northwest Wisconsin which eventually led to the creation of what is now the Northern Waters Library System in 1973. Library systems created in 1974 and celebrating their 35th anniversaries also include the Arrowhead Library System, the Manitowoc-Calumet Library System, and the Mid-Wisconsin Library System. The Lakeshores Library System was created in 1979 and is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The November-December 2001 issue of Channel contained extensive coverage of the history of Wisconsin's public library systems to highlight the 30th anniversary of the passage of the public library system law in December 1971. Congratulations to all of these library systems on these significant anniversaries.
Any library building that is older than fifty years is considered to be historic. Some historic library buildings continue to serve as libraries usually with additions. Others are razed so the lot they stand on can be used for a new library or for another use. Still others survive as buildings but are used for other purposes. One of the more positive alternative purposes for these buildings is to serve as a local history museum. Historical societies realize the importance of preserving historic buildings and they make them accessible to the public. There are several of these in Wisconsin. The Carnegie library building in Darlington which is pictured on the envelope above now serves as the home of the Lafayette County Historical Society Museum. The Antigo Carnegie library building shown on the postcard below serves as the home to the Langlade Historical Society. Other historic library buildings occupied by museums that I am aware of include those in Beaver Dam, Racine, Waupaca, Waupun, and Wisconsin Rapids. A down side to these buildings is that they are often not fully accessible to those with disabilities.
The "On This Day" feature of the Wisconsin Historical Society's website alerted me to the information that on this day in 1895 the voters of Oshkosh, WI approved the establishment of a free public library. The Oshkosh Public Library was the beneficiary of private and public funding totaling $150,000 that resulted in the construction of a grand new library building which opened in 1900.. The architect for the building was William Waters who had designed the Wisconsin building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The 1900 building is incorporated into the current library building which was completed in 1994. An excellent history of the library and its building is located on the library's website.
May is National Preservation Month and this year's them is "This Place Matters!". The website for the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides background information on National Preservation Month for 2009. The Wisconsin Historical Society provides the leadership for historic preservation in Wisconsin. Ironically the Wisconsin Historical Society's headquarters building has been in need of restoration for years. In my opinion this building is second only to the State Capitol in Wisconsin in its historic importance. This place definitely matters. Fortunately, good things are about to happen to this wonderful building. The magnificent reading room on the second floor is about to undergo a full restoration, and the front entrance to the building will also be restored. The building was completed in 1900 and was designed to house both the Wisconsin Historical Society Library and the University of Wisconsin Library. Jackson E. Town has written about the inception of the building in the Wisconsin Magazine of History in the Winter 1955-56 issue. When the American Library Association met in Waukesha in 1901, conference attendees came to Madison to visit the newly completed building and, "There was but one opinion of the entire party in regard to the beauty and arrangement of the building, and that was satisfactory to the highest degree." More on the history of the building can be found here. Wisconsin is celebrating Historic Preservation and Archaeology Month with a number of activities.
This is National Postcard Week. Diana Dretske, collections coordinator for the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois, provides some background information on National Postcard Week on her blog "Illuminating Lake County, Illinois History". I have previously posted on the WLHC blog about Wisconsin library postcards. Also by clicking on the "Postcards" category you can see all the previous posts to the WLHC blog that have included a Wisconsin library postcard image.
The Real Photograph Postcard (RPPC) of the Oakfield Public Library features the building in which the library was located in various configurations from 1913 to 2001. When this postcard was mailed the library shared the building with the Fire Department and the Village Hall. The message on the reverse of the postcard talks about the new fire whistle on the bell tower of the building which was run by an electric motor and cost $300. The person sending the card has also added comments to the front of the card relating to the new whistle. For a history of library facilities in Oakfield click here.
Library buttons are fun and they are an interesting collectible, but they can also be artifacts that link us to our past. In the image above are four buttons that each have a Wisconsin library story to tell. The crossed out AB 720 button was created to oppose a piece of library legislation that was supported by the majority of the Wisconsin library community and was passed into law. The "Bark In The Dark" and the "It won't fit in the box" buttons were created for the particpants of two different groups that were charged with revising Wisconsin's public library standards. The phrases reflect frustrations at critical points in the process of developing the standards. The Jim Danky button recognizes the retirement of one of Wisconsin's stellar librarians. To see more library buttons including others from Wisconsin click here.
This is the last day of National Library Week 2009 and it could be Wisconsin Library Heritage Day. At the meeting of the Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center on February 19th, I floated the idea of establishing a Wisconsin Library Heritage Day to be celebrated on the Saturday of National Library Week each year. My rationale was that in addition to promoting a better understanding and appreciation for Wisconsin’s library heritage, Wisconsin Library Heritage Day would provide an additional avenue for marketing Wisconsin’s libraries at the local and state levels. It would tie in well with the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries and the National Library Week campaign. It could initiate a buildup to the 120th anniversary of WLA in 2011.
Some ideas for celebrating National Library Day at the local level include:
- Hold a birthday party for the library.
- Host a display of historical artifacts related to library history at the local, state, or national level.
- Work with the local post office to create a pictorial postmark related to the library's anniversary. Create a souvenir envelope to go with the postmark and include an insert with the history of the library.
- Create or expand a section of the library's website devoted to the history of the library.
- Cooperate with local library historical societies to promote activities and events.
- Invite an impersonator of a national, state, or local library figure in the past to perform a skit. Possibilities: Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Melvil Dewey, or Lutie Stearns.
- Get local actors to reenact a pivotal meeting in the formation or early history of the library.
The WLHC Steering Committee didn't receive the idea of a Wisconsin Library Heritage Day with open arms but they didn't turn it down outright. We will continue to explore the idea for 2010. What are your thoughts on such a day and let us know if you have other ideas for celebrating Library Heritage Day.
Among the earliest libraries in Wisconsin were the libraries of academies. Academies were basically private high schools and often preceded colleges or universities. Carroll College in Waukesha County was originally incorporated in 1841 as Prairieville Academy in the Town of Prairieville in Milwaukee County. Plattevillw Academy established in 1843 preceded the State Normal School at Platteville, later the University of Wisconsin - Platteville. Milton Academy established in 1844 preceded Milton College. Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin was established in 1855 and went through a number of ups and downs before finally becoming a co-educational private academy which it continues as today. Wayland Hall, the first building of Wayland Academy, housed the library. A major rennovation of Wayland Hall began in March of this year. The real photograph postcard (RPPC) above shows an early view of the interior of the well appointed Wayland Academy library.
National Library Week started today with the theme "World's Connect @ your library". 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”. Each state that participated in the effort was required to establish a statewide planning committee. The Wisconsin Library Association took the responsibility for designating a volunteer state executive director for Wisconsin. The executive director worked with the statewide committee under a lay chairperson and with significant lay membership. As a spin off of the 1962 National Library Week campaign in Wisconsin, Mrs. Bruno Bitker of Milwaukee provided the leadership for founding the Friends of Wisconsin Libraries(FOWL) in 1963. That organization was the model for the national Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA) which was also founded in Wisconsin. 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. FOWL has been integrated into the new Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends (WLTF) Division of WLA. On February 1, 2009 FOLUSA joined with the Asociation of Library Trustees and Advocates to form the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF).
For more on the history of National Library Week and previous themes click here.