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.

Happy National Bookmobile Day!

Posted by Larry Nix
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 Southwest Wisconsin Bookmobile
This week is National Library Week and one day during the week (today April 15) is designated as National Bookmobile Day. Bookmobiles are a part of Wisconsin library history and the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center has developed a page on its website to highlight this aspect of our library heritage. Take a look.

Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Changes

Posted by Larry Nix
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Larry T. Nix who has served as Chair of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center (WLHC) Steering Committee since its establishment in 2008 is leaving the committee. Committee member Paul Nelson will take over as Chair. Also leaving the committee after completing three terms on the committee are Peter Gilbert and Lori Belongia. Continuing members on the committee in addition to Nelson are Ruth Ann Montgomery, James Gollata, and Louise Robbins. New members joining the committee are Janis Berg, Mary Clark, and Steve Platteter. The WLHC is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. Activities of the WLHC include maintaining a website and blog [http://heritage.wisconsinlibraries.org/], sponsoring exhibits, and administering the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame.

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.

Lutie Stearns and the Woman's Congress at Tower Hill, WI

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This article was also posted on The Library History Buff Blog.   

For Women's History Month I thought I would post a story about Lutie Stearns, one of Wisconsin's greatest library pioneers. As often happens, a piece of postal librariana was the stimulus for my engaging in some library history research. I was delighted when I researched a picture postcard depicting the Ann Mitchell Library at Tower Hill, Wisconsin (shown above) to find that there was a link between Tower Hill and Lutie Stearns. Tower Hill is now the Tower Hill State Park, but was originally the summer retreat of Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a prominent Unitarian minister. As is explained in the first issue of La Follette's Weekly Magazine (January 9, 1909), Jones sponsored an annual Woman's Congress at Tower Hill. The guests at the Woman's Congress were limited to twenty-five invited individuals, and the speakers and topics for the Congress were selected by a committee which Lutie Stearns chaired for several years. Stearns at the time was on the staff of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission which she helped to found in 1891. In addition to her advocacy for free public libraries and traveling libraries, Stearns was an outspoken advocate for women and their role in society. Library Journal (October, 1916) reported on on a Library Congress held at Tower Hill in August of 1916. This Congress was also chaired by Lutie Stearns. Librarians from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and North Dakota participated in this informal gathering to discuss library issues and to relax. It is in that Library Journal article which was written by Stearns that mention is made of the Ann Mitchell Library.  It notes that: "The afternoons during the week were given over to informal conferences and visits to the Ann Mitchell Library building on the Tower Hill grounds, which was found to be well supplied with the classics as well as the better part of latter-day literature." I have been unable to determine the identity of Ann Mitchell. Jones was a promoter of women in the ministry so perhaps she was a minister. The library and the building that housed it no longer exist. I also have a blog post about Lutie's speech impediment and her proposal for a book wagon. I highly recommend a book about Lutie for young people titled Books in a Box.

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  • Christine Pawley says #
    So glad you posted this, Larry. I was just reading in Stearns's "My Seventy-five Years: Part III, from the Wisconsin Magazine of ...

When Thoreau Came to Wisconsin

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stamp-us-thoreau-72.jpgThis week is the 150th anniversary of the start of a trip taken by Henry David Thoreau and Horace Mann, Jr. to Minnesota and back to Massachusetts. The trip started on May 11 and ended on July 11, 1861. On the return leg of the trip Thoreau and his companion traveled through Wisconsin.  Corinne H. Smith, a writer and librarian in Massachusetts, has written a book about the journey which will be published this summer. Smith also maintains a website with a great deal of information about the trip including the exact route taken on the trip. On June 26 to June 27, Thoreau and Mann came down the Mississippi River and arrived in Prairie du Chien, WI on the morning of June 27. They departed Prairie du Chien by train at 10:00 a.m. that morning traveling through more than 18 Wisconsin communities before arriving in Milwaukee at 6:00 p.m. that evening.  On Friday, June 28 they departed Milwaukee by steamship stopping at the port of Sheboygan before proceeding on to Mackinac Island, Michigan and the rest of their trip home.  This momentous journey by a famous author provides an opportunity for Wisconsin libraries to plan some special activities to commemorate the occasion.  The Stoughton Public Library will be hosting a program on the journey given by Corinne Smith on June 20.  Smith will also be making presentations at other libraries along the route. Like the theme for Wisconsin's summer library program, "One World, Many Stories", this is just one of many Wisconsin stories.

An enjoyable get-together, WLA's first conference

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wla-wilcox-bk2-72.jpgOn March 11, 1891, 120 years ago today, twenty-nine people gathered in Madison for the first conference of the Wisconsin Library Association. Benton H. Wilcox in his history of The Wisconsin Library Association 1891-1966  described the first conference: "The program appeared rather hastily prepared. F. A. Hutchins spoke first on the conditions and prospects of town libraries, and later on the manner of establishing free city libraries under the state law.  Dr. Birge talked informally on the proper conduct of free city libraries, while Mr. Thwaites gave a short address on the work of city libraries and local history.  The only business transacted was to elect to their respective offices for another year the temporary officers chosen by the founding meeting on February 11.  If there was any discussion concerning "the future course of the association," as proposed in the call for the meeting, it is not mentioned in the minutes.  No future program was outlined, discussed or even proposed.  Nevertheless the minutes assure us that it had been an enjoyable get-together of library interested people.  There was not another until July, 1884." Although there was not another conference until July, 1884, there was a "get-together" of Wisconsin library folk in Chicago on July 13, 1893 in conjunction with ALA's World's Congress of Librarians which was held at the World's Columbian Exposition. The logo shown here is from the Wilcox history written in 1966 on the 75th anniversary of WLA. That book is now 45 years old and in great need of updating. Perhaps this can be done by WLA's 125th anniversary.

Happy 160th Birthday Frank Hutchins

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hutchins-72.jpgToday is the 160th anniversary of the birth of Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame member
Frank Avery Hutchins (1851-1914). Hutchins was a leader in the free public library movement in Wisconsin and the United States. Hutchins' entry in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) written by Helen Huguenor Lyman has this to say about him: "Frank Hutchins, a brilliant man of rare vision and modesty, a pioneer librarian and active leader in the library world of Wisconsin, was born on March 8, 1851, in Norfolk, Ohio.  During his lifetime he was teacher, bookseller, newspaper man, library trustee, and librarian.  Again and again his friends described him as a humanitarian, public servant, scholar, and practical idealist.  he helped to gain legislative, financial, and professional support for both the educational work of school and public libraries and the extension of library services throughout the state of Wisconsin.  An initiator who would take no credit for the events he helped to set in motion, he recognized the abilities of others and encouraged them to carry out new ideas." Hutchins was a founder of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1891and the first paid secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Hutchins close partner in the development of public library service in Wisconsin was fellow Hall of Fame member Lutie Stearns.

National Library Week 2011, A Storytelling Opportunity

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The 2011 theme for National Library Week (April 10-16) is "Create your own story @ your library".  The theme, as it should be, is directed at the general public.  However, this year's National Library Week is also an opportunity for libraries (and the people connected or interested in them) to tell a story or stories about the history of the library. Last year I gave a presentation to the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries titled  “Turning Your Library’s History into a Public Relations Asset”.  In that presentation I noted that a basic tenet of good library public relations is to seize every possible opportunity to penetrate the consciousness of the general public and community leaders with a positive message about the library. I pointed out that the message that the library has been in the business of changing lives and improving the quality of life for the residents of the community for a long time and that it continues to build on that heritage is a powerful positive message. I then provided some methods for conveying that message. The American Library Association has just published Organizational Storytelling for Librarians: Using Stories for Effective Leadership by Kate Marek. Although I have not read the book, ALA's promotional material leads me to believe that the book would be very supportive of using stories about a library's history to promote the library. Why not resolve to penetrate the consciousness of your community's residents with at least one good story about the library's heritage during this year's National Library Week. Note: this post is being simultaneously published on the Library History Buff blog.


wla is one twenty in twenty one one

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The year 2011 is an important anniversary year in the history of libraries in Wisconsin.  This year marks the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Wisconsin Library Association. On February 11, 1891, a group of individuals gathered in the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (located in Wisconsin's second Capitol, shown above) for the purpose of establishing a state library association.  At that meeting, a constitution (based on that of the New York Library Association) was adopted and officers were elected.  They included K. A. Linderfelt, president; R. G. Thwaites, vice-president; and F. A. Hutchins, secretary-treasurer. The first conference of the newly established association took place in Madison on March 11, 1891.  Although much of the focus of the early years of the Wisconsin Library Association was on the development of public libraries, twelve decades of library leadership and support by the association has had a positive impact on all types of Wisconsin libraries. As Wisconsin libraries face a tough year due to the economy, it is also a time to acknowledge the tremendous library growth and development that has occurred in the last 120 years. Through good times and hard times Wisconsin libraries have persevered in meeting the information and knowledge needs of the state's residents.  That's something to celebrate.


Happy Birthday WLHC

Posted by Larry Nix
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Today marks the second anniversary of the founding of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center (WLHC). The WLHC is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation (WLAF). The WLHC was established on March 19, 2008 by action of the WLAF Board based on a report  [heritage-center-report-3-19-08.pdf] submitted by the WLHC Steering Committee.  This action led to the creation of this website and the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame. The WLHC Steering Committee is looking forward to another successful year.

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  • PG says #
    Woohoo! Happy Birthday, WLHC! And congratulations, Larry!

WLA's First Library Conference, March 11, 1891

Posted by Larry Nix
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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.


One Year Anniversary of WLHC Website

Posted by Larry Nix
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It's hard to believe that it has been a year since the WLHC Website was launched. Since that time over 95 posts have been made to the blog portion of the website. To see a list of blog posts including several recent posts click here. The website was launched with a large amount of content that had been developed for "The Library History Buff" website. During the last year much of this content has been updated and expanded. Thanks to the Outagamie Waupaca Library System for hosting the website and for the work of Beth Carpenter, formerly with OWLS and now director of  the public library in Little Chute, in designing and setting up the site. Beth continues to serve as the technical advisor for the website while I (Larry Nix) serve as the webmaster. We are also appreciative of the assistance of Evan Bend at OWLS for keeping track of our website statistics. The website averages just under 5,000 visits each month by around 1,300 unique visitors. We are always eager to get feedback about the website and each blog post and web page allows for comment.

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation.

 

Wisconsin Library Heritage Day

Posted by Larry Nix
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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.

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National Library Week 2009

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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.


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  • Sandra Kincaid says #
    I just learned of ALTAFF and their meeting in Chicago next month and I wanted to know if there is a Wisconsin Friends of Libraries...
  • Larry Nix says #
    Sandra, The Library Friends group in Wisconsin is the Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends unit of the Wisconsin Library Associa...

One Year Anniversary

Posted by Larry Nix
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This month marks the one year anniversary of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center.  A lot has been accomplished in the first year, and the WLHC Steering Committee has an active agenda for the second year of the WLHC.  We are appreciative of the support of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Board and staff.  The WLHC website has a good start. We are grateful to the Outagamie Waupaca Library System for hosting the website, and for the assistance of Beth Carpenter in designing the site. Ten individuals were inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2008 and plans are underway for more inductees in 2009.  The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit is now being sponsored by the WLHC.  It was on display at four libraries in the last year, and it will be on display at the Milwaukee Public Library in April. The WLHC Steering Committee hopes to explore the possibility of establishing a Wisconsin library oral history project in 2009. The Steering Committee is appreciatiave of the financial support of the Founding Contributors of the WLHC.  By the way, you still have a once in a lifetime opportunity to become a Founding Contributor.  WLHC Steering Committee members are listed here.


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On This Day 1904

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The Wisconsin Historical Society has a "Today in History" feature on its website that alerts the viewer to what happened on this day in Wisconsin history.  I just happened to note that this was the day in 1904 when the State Capitol fire occurred. That fire dramatically impacted the Wisconsin Free Library Commission and the State Law Library which we reported on in an earlier post.

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