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.

The Library Historians are Coming

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On September 10-12, 2010 library historians from around the nation (and further afield) will gather in Madison to share their research on the history of libraries and print culture.  They will be participating in the Library History Seminar which  occurs only once every four years.  This year is the twelfth such event. Library History Seminar XII is being hosted by the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.  The event will take place at the Pyle Center on the UW-Madison campus. The information for registering for the Seminar and the program is located at http://slisweb.lis.wisc.edu/~printcul/.  If you're a library history buff (or even if you're not) this is a great opportunity to rub elbows with the premier library historians of our time. If you can't attend the entire program try to catch one of the two public lectures. On Friday, Sept. 10 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in Room 325-326 of the Pyle Center Janice A. Radway, Northwestern University, School of Communication, will present "Can the Underground be Saved?: Girl Zines, the Librarians Who Love Them, and the Reconfiguration of the Literary Sphere." On Saturday, Sept. 11 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wayne A. Wiegand, Florida State University, School of Library and Information Studies, will present  "Main Street Public Library: Community Places and Reading Spaces in the Rural Heartland, 1865-1956." Wiegand is a native of Manitowoc and former Professor at UW SLIS. He co-founded the  Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America with Jim Danky.  I'm looking forward with great anticipation to the event and to meeting some of the people I admire the most.

Pass it On: Wisconsin's Library Heritage

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The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) of the American Library Association (ALA) is sponsoring the first Preservation Week May 9-15, 2010. The theme for the ALCTS Preservation Week is "Pass it On". It is a great theme and can also be considered a plea from the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Steering Committee as it relates to Wisconsin's library heritage. Our library heritage consists of archives, artifacts, architecture, and the memory of those librarians and library supporters who have handed down the legacy that is today's Wisconsin library community. There are lots of ideas on the Preservation Week website that can be used to highlight and promote your library's heritage. Why not undertake some of them this year.


 


National Bookmobile Day

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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". 


Library History 2010 Preview

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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.


Library Heritage 2009

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The celebration of Wisconsin's library heritage in 2009 has been rewarding. It was the first full year of operation for the WLHC which was officially established in March, 2008 by the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. The website continues to be the most visible aspect of the WLHC. The website contains both static pages and blog posts. There were 82 blog posts in 2009. A new page featuring Wisconsin bookmobiles was added to the website in 2009. Between 1,300 and 1,400 unique visitors access the website each month.

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.








Annual volumes of the Wisconsin Library Bulletin have started appearing in Google Books. These include the volumes for 19051907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 19171922

We look forward to another rewarding year of celebrating Wisconsin's library heritage in 2010.








Public Relations Retrospective

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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. 


I Love My Library's History

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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


Book Wagons and Crazy Socialists

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The Machinists' Monthly Journal for July, 1904 wrote:"These crazy Socialists in Wisconsin are going too far. A book wagon, the first public library on wheels to be sent out in the United States, is contemplated in a plan just completed by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. It will invade the State next October. As the wagon passes through the counties the farmers will be invited to select their winter's reading. There will be books for the old and young, and each family will be allowed to make as large a selection as is desired. The following Spring the wagon will make another trip through the same territory to gather up the books and return them to the central library." The proposed book wagon was the idea of Lutie Stearns, and as far as I can determine it was never implemented. Stearns first discussed the concept of a book wagon at the American Library Association conference at Niagra Falls in 1903. The idea was more fully explained in a letter reprinted in the July, 1904 issue of Public Libraries (p. 331). Stearns a major supporter of rotating or traveling libraries felt book wagons could provide more current material. The first book wagon to actually go forth in the United States was from the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland in April, 1905. Whether Mary Titcomb, the Librarian in Hagerstown in 1905, got her inspiration from Lutie Stearns is unknown. The first Hagerstown book wagon was destroyed in 1910 while crossing a railroad track. It was hit by a freight train leaving only fragments of the wagon.

Note: This entry was also posted on the Library History Buff Blog on Feb. 10, 2009. More on bookmobiles in Wisconsin can be found here.
Recent comment in this post Show all comments
  • Ian Hunter says #
    It should read: Niagara Falls

Founding Contributors

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We wish to express our appreciation to the following individuals and organizations who have achieved the designation of Founding Contributor to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center by making a special contribution to the WLHC.  These individuals and organizations are helping the WLHC to get off to a good start in its efforts to promote the heritage of Wisconsin libraries.


Diana Anderson
Appleton Library Foundation
Lori A. Belongia  
Dan C. Calef                                                                                      
John Eldred/Heather Eldred
Nancy Fletcher
Peter Gilbert
Barbara Kelly
Rick Krumwiede                                                     
Beatrice (Bea) Lebal
Milton Mitchell 
Ruth Ann Montgomery                                                                
Friends of Neenah Library
Larry T. Nix
T.B. Scott Free Library, Merrill, WI
Lisa Strand                                          
Lowell W. Wilson  


The WLHC is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation.  All members of WLA are automatically  members of the WLA Foundation.  Those members who wish to provide additional support for WLA Foundation programs are encoraged to become a participant in one of the contributing Circles of the Foundation.  The Founding Contributor designation for the WLHC is a one-time contributing opportunity.  For more on how to become a Founding Contributor click here


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  • PG says #
    I have to report that my contribution was a Christmas present from my wife. She knows what I like...

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