Wisconsin Library Heritage Center

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation promoting understanding and appreciation of the history of libraries and librarianship in Wisconsin.

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WI Library Hall of Fame Inductees for 2013

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The Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center, a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation, has selected four individuals to be inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2013. They will join thirty-six other individuals who have previously been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The 2013 inductions will take place at the WLA Annual Conference in Green Bay on October 23 at the WLA/WLAF Business Meeting.  The inductees are:  
 
Leonard B. Archer (1913-2003) Archer served as Director of the Oshkosh Public Library (1958 to 1978) and held a joint appointment as Director of the Winnefox Library System. He was an advocate for intellectual freedom and was named Librarian of the Year by WLA in 1975.

Katharine MacDonald Jones (1866-?) Jones was a national authority on the selection of materials for small public libraries. She joined the staff of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission in 1899, and served as Assistant Secretary of the Commission from 1901 to 1907.

Bernard Schwab (1920-1990) Bernard Schwab served as Director of the Madison Public Library from 1957 to 1981. He was President of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1966-67 and was named Librarian of the Year in 1970.

Miriam Downing Tompkins (1892-1954) Tompkins was a national leader in advancing the role of the public library in adult education. She served as Director of the Training Class (1919-1921) and Chief of Adult Education (1923-1929) for the Milwaukee Public Library. 

More extensive coverage of the accomplishments of these four individuals and previous inductees can be found at the Library Hall of Fame website.

Madison's Central Libraries

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The Madison Public Library's new central library was dedicated today. The new central library is a substantial remake of the central library building which was built in 1965. For all practical purposes it is a new building. The first separate library building for the City of Madison was a building built with assistance from Andrew Carnegie.  That building which was located at 206 N. Carroll Street opened to the public on February 23, 1906. One of the most unusual aspects of the building was that the Library School of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (the predecessor of the UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies) was housed on its second floor.  The Carnegie building was razed after the completion of the 1965 building to make way for a parking lot. The 1965 central library building was named the Bernard Schwab Library in 1990 in honor of Schwab who retired as the Madison Public Library's Director in 1981. He played a major role in the design of the building which was built during his tenure.

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1906  Carnegie Building

Madison Central Library 1965

1965 Building, Named the Bernard Schwab Library in 1990

Madison Central Library 2013

New Central Library 2013

 

Beloit Exhibit for National Library Week

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The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is helping to celebrate National Library Week (April14-20) with an exhibit at the Beloit Public Library. The exhibit will be on display until the end of April.  The exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia is available for display at Wisconsin libraries with certain restrictions. Contact Larry Nix at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

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Library Memorabilia Exhibit at Kimberly - Little Chute

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The Kimberly - Little Chute Public Library is a joint public library that, as one would expect, serves the communities of Kimberly, WI and Little Chute, WI. Both communities have their own library building, but are served by a single administrator and staff. The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is sponsoring an exhibit of Wisconsin library memorabilia at the Kimberly library that will run through the end of November, and an exhibit at the Little Chute library that will be on display in January and February of 2013. Images of the exhibit at Kimberly are shown below. Because of the unusually large display area at the Kimberly library, the exhibit at that library is one of the largest exhibits that has been sponsored by the WLHC. The exhibit has also been scheduled for the Deforest Area Library in March and April. Libraries wishing to schedule the exhibit for future months should contact Larry Nix at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kimberly exhibit 2

Kimberly exhibit 1

 

Wisconsin's Library Lions

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Oshkosh postcard

By far the most famous library lions are those that grace the front entrance of the New York Public Library's building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The Oshkosh Public Library in Wisconsin also has a pair of library lions and, like those in New York, they have provided an important visual symbol of the public library. Also like the lions of the New York Public Library, the library lions in Oshkosh are named. They were named Harris and Sawyer in 1977 for two of the prominent early donors to the library.  Earlier this month the Oshkosh Public Library celebrated the 100th anniversary of the installation of the lions in front of the library in 1912. The celebration included a variety of activities including a "Lion's Pride" mini sculpture contest. The lions sit in front of the library that was built in 1900. A major expansion and renovation of the building took place in 1994. The Oshkosh Public Library has a commemorative history of the lions as well as an overall history of the library on its website. The website of the New York Public Library has a page on its lions. There is also a good printed history of the New York Public Library lions titled Top Cats: The Life and Times of The New York Public Library Lions by Susan G. Larkin (Pomegranate, 2006).

 This post was previously published in The Library History Buff Blog.

 

Rachel Katherine Schenk (1899-1973)

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Rachel SchenkRachel Katherine Schenk served as Director of the Wisconsin Library School (now the School of Library and Information Studies of the University of Wisconsin – Madison) from 1951 to 1963. Prior to becoming Director she was a faculty member at the school. While Director she was responsible for the implementation of the master’s program at the library school. After her retirement from the Madison library school she helped implement the library science program at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She received the WLA Citation of Merit in 1960.  She was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Further reading: Robbins, Louise S. "Chapter 4 Leave It to Rachel: The Schenk Years 1951-1963" in Tradition and Vision: Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin, A Centennial History (Univ. of Wisconsin, 2006).

Cornelia Marvin Pierce (1873-1957)

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Cornelia Marvin PierceCornelia Marvin Pierce (then Cornelia Marvin) served as head of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission Summer School of Library Training during the summers of 1897 and 1898. In 1899 she became a full-time employee of the Wisconsin Library Commission as library instructor and director of the Summer School of Library Training. It was due largely to the success of the summer training sessions that the Commission established a permanent library school that is now the School of Library and Information Studies of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. In 1905 she left Wisconsin to become the first secretary of the Oregon Library Commission which became the Oregon State Library in 1913. She served as Oregon State Librarian until 1928. She married Walter M. Pierce in 1928. She is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography. She was included on the National Advocacy Honor Roll by the American Library Association in 2000 for her contribution as an advocate for library services in the 20th century.  Pierce was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Further reading: Brisley, Melissa Ann. "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: Pioneer In Library Extension" The Library Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 3, April 1968: 125-153.

Clarence Brown Lester (1877-1951)

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Clarence LesterClarence Brown Lester served as Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission from 1920 to 1949, the longest tenure for any Secretary of the Commission. Prior to becoming Secretary he was chief of the Commission's special training course for reference librarians (1913-1920). The Wisconsin Library Association’s Clarence B. Lester Library of the Year award (now just the Library of the Year Award) was established in his honor in 1955. He served as President of the National Association of State Libraries and also of the League of Library Commissions. Lester was a native of Providence, RI and a graduate of Brown University.  Lester was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.
 

Zona Gale (1874-1938)

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Zona GaleZona Gale, a Portage (WI) native and Pulitzer Prize winning author, was a lifelong friend and champion of Wisconsin's libraries. She used her celebrity to promote libraries wherever possible. She was a member of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (1921-1932) and served as its Chair in 1921-1924 and 1926-1929. She also served as a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. She won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1921 for her play "Miss LuLu Bett". Her home was donated to the City of Portage in 1946 to house the Portage Public Library. She is a member of the Wisconsin Writers Hall of Fame. She received both a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Gale was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Collection.
 

John Miller Chancellor (1896-1980)

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John Miller Chancellor had a distinguished career at the national level where he was an authority and proponent on adult eduction in public libraries. He served as the Adult Education Specialist for the American Library Association from 1934-1942. He resigned from ALA and moved to Wisconsin in 1943 where he became a farmer in Mount Horeb. He was appointed to the Wisconsin Free Library Commission at a critical point in the development of public libraries in Wisconsin. He served on the Commission from 1947-1951 and was its Chair in 1949-1951. He was a major contributor to the publication “The Wisconsin-Wide Library Idea for voluntary Education through Reading” (1948).  On the Commission he defended intellectual freedom during the McCarthy era. He was made an Honorary Member of the American Library Association in 1962. Honorary membership in ALA is conferred on individuals whose contribution to librarianship is "so outstanding that it is of lasting importance to the advancement of the whole field of library service".  Earlier positions included: reference assistant at the New York Public Library; readers advisor at the New Haven (CT) Public Library; and supervising librarian at the U. S. Bureau of Prisons. Chancellor was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012. Chancellor was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Richard E. Krug (1905 -1983)

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Richard KrugRichard E. Krug served as city librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library from 1941 to 1974. During his long tenure as city librarian he transformed the library system. His accomplishments included construction of a major addition to the central library and a reorganization of the system’s branch libraries. Under his leadership the library began the use of data processing in 1947. As city librarian he strongly defended intellectual freedom. He was instrumental in developing the Charles Allis Art Library. He served as President of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1946-1947. He received WLA’s Special Service Award in 1974. The Krug Rare Book Room in the Central Library of the Milwaukee Public Library is named in honor of Krug and his wife Lucile. Krug received both his bachelor's degree (1927) and his law degree (1929) from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He started as the municipal reference librarian at the Milwaukee Public Library in 1930 and became assistant City librarian in 1939. Krug was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Further reading: Ring, Daniel F. "Richard Krug: The Bookman as a Librarian" Libraries & Culture, vol. 29, no. 3 (1994: 257-272.

Gerald A. Somers, (1921-2003)

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Gerald SomersGerald A. Somers served as Director of the Green Bay Public Library (later the Brown County Library) from 1961 to 1987. He played a leadership role in the development of legislation that established Wisconsin’s public library systems. Somers was President of WLA in 1965-1966, and was WLA Librarian of the Year in 1972. He was instrumental in establishing the Brown County Library, the first consolidated county library in the state. Somers served in the U.S. Air Force from 1941 until his discharge in 1945. He later attended Knox College and the University of Chicago where he earned a Bachelor of Library Science Degree in 1948. Somers was employed as a Director of the Norris Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library from 1950-1956; Director of the Eau Claire Public Library from 1956-1961; Director of Kellogg Public Library in Green Bay from 1961-1968, and the Brown County Library from 1968 until his retirement in 1987. Somers was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

2012 Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame Inductees Selected

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The Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center, a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation, has selected seven individuals to be inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame (WLHF) in 2012. They are: John Miller Chancellor (1896-1980); Zona Gale (1874-1938); Richard E. Krug (1905-1983); Clarence Brown Lester (1877-1951); Cornelia Marvin Pierce (1873-1957); Rachel Katherine Schenk (1899-1973); and Gerald A. Somers (1921-2003). These seven inductees will join twenty-nine other individuals who have previously been inducted into the WLHF. The 2012 inductions will take place at the WLA Annual Conference in La Crosse, WI at the Awards & Honors Banquet on October 25. 
 
After a distinguished library career at the national level concluding as the Adult Education Specialist for the American Library Association, John Miller Chancellor moved to Wisconsin. He was appointed to the Wisconsin Free Library Commission at a critical point in the history of public library development in Wisconsin. He served on the Commission from 1947-1951 and was its Chair in 1949-1951. He was made an Honorary Member of the American Library Association in 1962. 
 
Noted Wisconsin author Zona Gale was a lifelong friend and champion of libraries. She used her celebrity to promote libraries wherever possible. She was a member of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (1921-1932) and served as its Chair in 1921-1924 and 1926-1929.
 
Richard E. Krug was an important figure in U.S. public librarianship. He served as director of the Milwaukee Public Library from 1941 to 1974. During his tenure he transformed the library system including the construction of a major addition to the central library and a reorganization of the system’s branch libraries. He served as President of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1946-1947. He received WLA’s Special Service Award in 1974.
 
Clarence Brown Lester served as Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission from 1920 to 1949. The Wisconsin Library Association’s Clarence B. Lester Librarian of the Year award (now the WLAA/DEMCO Librarian of the Year Award) was established in his honor in 1955. He served as President of the National Association of State Libraries and also of the League of Library Commissions. 
 
Cornelia Marvin Pierce was head of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission Summer School of Library Training during the summers of 1897 and 1898. In 1899 she became a full-time employee of the Wisconsin Library Commission as library instructor and director of the Summer School of Library Training. In 1905 she left Wisconsin to become the first secretary of the Oregon Library Commission which became the Oregon State Library in 1913. She served as Oregon State Librarian until 1928.
 
Rachel Katherine Schenk was Director of the Wisconsin Library School (now the School of Library and Information Studies of the University of Wisconsin – Madison) from 1951 to 1963. While Director she was responsible for the implementation of the master’s program at the library school. She received the WLA Citation of Merit in 1960.
 
Gerald A. Somers was Director of the Green Bay Public Library (later the Brown County Library) from 1961 to 1987. He played a leadership role in the development of legislation that established Wisconsin’s public library systems. Somers was President of WLA in 1965-1966, and was WLA Librarian of the Year in 1972. 
 
More extensive coverage of the accomplishments of these seven individuals will be forthcoming in later posts to the WLHC website.
 

Elroy's Public Library and the Ice Storm of 1922

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I've lived in Wisconsin for 32 years and I've never experienced a serious ice storm. I missed the devastating ice storm of March, 1976. In February of 1922 Wisconsin also experienced one the worst ice storms in its history. During that ice storm ice accumulations ranging from one inch to as high as four inches brought down over 15,000 communication poles and caused $10 million in property damage (an enormous sum at that time). Interruptions in power and communications because of the storm ranged from 2 to 15 days. Elroy, WI was one of the communities that was hit hard by the ice storm. I recently acquired the postcard shown above which documents the impact of the storm around the Elroy Public Library.

Brodhead's Early Public Library

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pc-wi-brodhead-detail-enlargedI'm always on the lookout for postcards depicting Wisconsin libraries. I've been so successful that it is not often that I come across one that I don't already have. So it was a real treat when I found a Real Photograph Postcard (RPPC) showing the the public library on the Main Street of Brodhead, WI (shown above). RPPCs as the name implies are photographs printed on a postcard formatted sheet of paper. They are printed in much smaller quantities that other postcards and often depict subjects that can't be found on postcards in other formats. This postcard was mailed on October 30, 1911 from Brodhead to Neenah, WI. The public library is depicted on the far right side of the postcard (see detail to the left). It is located on the second floor of the building and there are covered stairs on the right leading to the library. Also depicted on the postcard is a horse drawn buggy. Although there are people shown on the postcard they have been deliberately blurred. I was able to find some other images (search for "library") of various Brodhead public libraries on the Brodhead Historical Society's website. One of the images depicts the interior of this library. Another gives a better view of the exterior of the library. The public library was founded in 1909. The current building was completed in 2009, 100 years later.

WI Library Hall of Fame Nominations for 2012

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The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Steering Committee is accepting nominations for individuals to be inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2012. Nominations must be submitted by August 1, 2012. Procedures and a nomination form are located HERE. Both the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center and the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame are programs of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. Induction into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame is granted to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the statewide improvement of library service in Wisconsin over a sustained period of time.  Individuals who have worked in and/or advocated for Wisconsin libraries will be considered.  Both living and deceased individuals will be considered. Final selection of inductees into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame will be made by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Steering Committee. Nominations should be submitted to Larry T. Nix (Chair of the WLHC Steering Committee) as email attachments at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by August 1.  For additional information please feel free to contact Nix.

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Wisconsin Library Memorabilia Exhibit at Lone Rock

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lone-rock 001-72The exhibit of Wisconsin library memorabilia sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is currently on display at the Lone Rock Public Library (see photo above). The exhibit will be there through the month of June. The Lone Rock Public Library is the smallest public library in which the exhibit has been displayed. A variety of library memorabilia exhibits have been on display in around 30 Wisconsin libraries so far. The largest library in which an exhibit has been displayed is the Central Library of the Milwaukee Public Library. In July, the Wisconsin library memorabilia exhibit will be on display at the Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, WI.

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Happy National Bookmobile Day

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badge-oshkosh-72Today is National Bookmobile Day. Check out our "Bookmobiles" page to see information about the history of bookmobiles in Wisconsin. Paul Nelson has a nice post on his blog about bookmobiles which has some Wisconsin bookmobile images and information. The Library History Buff Blog also has a list of the best bookmobile websites. The item shown above is a paper cutout assembled as a bookmobile.  It was given out to children by the Winding Rivers Library System in La Crosse, Wisconsin several years ago. The  badge to the left was worn by the bookmobile driver of the Oshkosh Public Library. The bookmobile service for the Oshkosh Public Library was discontinued in 2007 due to budget constraints. Based on the fastener on back of the badge, I think it was probably worn on the driver's hat. The vehicle shown on the badge appears to be a bus. It is likely that the company that made the badge supplied badges to bus drivers and they used the same basic design for the bookmobile badge.

Books for Soldiers and Sailors in WWI - An Exhibit

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The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center sponsors exhibits of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia. One of those exhibits will be on display at the Waupaca Area Library for most of April and May. I will also have an exhibit on the American Library Association Library War Service for the month of April at the Hales Corners Public Library.  Wisconsin libraries actively cooperated with the American Library Association in its efforts to provide books for soldiers and sailors during World War I. This included participation in nationwide fundraising efforts. Matthew S. Dudgeon, Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, took a leave of absence to serve in the Library War Service. He was in charge of all camp libraries in the U. S., and later served in France.   I've included some images of the exhibit below.

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Janice Kee and a Librarian's Travelogue

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This entry was also posted on The Library History Buff Blog on March 4, 2012.

kee-72Sarah Janice Kee (1908 -1998) was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2009 primarily because of her work as Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission from 1956 to 1965. During Kee's tenure at the Commission, Wisconsin established the foundation for its current seventeen federated public library systems.  In seeking to find out more about Kee a number of years ago, I was able to obtain a copy of a travelogue written by Kee titled Around the World in 80 Years: A Travelogue Interspersed with Anecdotes (unpublished, 1997). As the title suggests it is a record of Kee's travels around the world during her lifetime, but it also chronicles a remarkable library career. Kee was a native Texan and ended her library career in Texas. In regard to her travels, Kee writes: "It has been my privilege to see much of the world in my life time. My methods of travel have been in a swing seat in a covered wagon, a buggy, surrey, the back seat of a Model T - Ford car, both slow and fast trains, the driver's seat in a Ford, Chevrolet, Frazier and Oldsmobile, both slow and fast airplanes and a Cruiser in the Mediterranean sea."  From her rural Texas roots, Kee embarked on a library career with her first library position in the Library Service of the Air Force during World War II. She did so well that she was eventually promoted to Command Librarian supervising 35 post libraries. She went to work for the Missouri State Library in 1947, and again did so well that she was designated Acting State Librarian when State Librarian Katherine Mier retired in 1948. Unfortunately, it was only "until a man could be found for the job". According to Kee the man they found "knew nothing - I mean nothing about State Library work". Lucky for Wisconsin she left Missouri and came to Wisconsin for her first stint at the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. She entered the national library arena in 1952 as Executive Secretary of the Public Library Division of the American Library Association, a position she held until she assumed leadership of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission in 1956. Kee concluded her library career as Library Program Officer (classified as a GS-14) with the U.S. Department of Education at the regional office in Dallas, Texas. At her interview for the position in Dallas with the Head of the Regional Office, according to Kee "a political appointee - one of those good-ol-boys who was retired from a Superintendent's position", she was told "'Miss Kee, do you realize I have MEN on my staff who are not GS-14s?'" She reminded him that she would be taking a pay cut if she took the job. She got the job anyway. Although Janice Kee wrote her travelogue primarily for her family, I feel fortunate to have shared via the travelogue in her travel and library career experiences. I wish more people could do the same. The original manuscript is located at the School of Library and Information Studies at Texan Woman's University where Kee established the S. Janice Kee Library Scholarship Fund.

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