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.

Madison's Central Libraries

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on Saturday, September 21, 2013
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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

 

Hales Corners Library 35th Anniversary Exhibit

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on Tuesday, January 11, 2011
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This year the Hales Corners Public Library is celebrating its 35th anniversary.  The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is helping out with its exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia which will be on display now through the end of February. As part of its celebration the library sponsored a contest to design a new library card.  The winner and other entries are located HERE.  The library will have a 35th anniversary birthday party on Sunday, January 23rd, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Congratulations Hales Corners! 

 

The Public Library in Eau Claire 1860-2009

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I just received a complimentary copy of The Public Library In Eau Claire 1860-2009, a history of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library (also available on the web). The primary authors of the book are L.E. Phillips staff members Katherine Sullivan and Larry Nickel. Editing and layout assistance was provided by Bess Arneson and Josh Stearns. Library director John Stoneberg assisted with the research for the publication.  Congratulations to all who were involved in this excellent publication.  I would recommend it as a model for any library that is contemplating the writing of a library history.  There are a number of things I like about this attractive, well laid out publication. Throughout the book there are framed blocks of text that highlight complimentary material that relates to broader historical events and to special information about the library's history. In regard to the library's history, I noted that Ione Nelson was one of their library directors before becoming a longtime library consultant at the Wisconsin Free Library Commission/Division for Library Services. I also noted that in 1985, "A representative from the state Department of Public Instruction came to help mediate the dispute in Eau Claire [involving the level of County reimbursements to L.E. Phillips]. I wonder who that was.

 

I would also like to commend the folks at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library for the treatment of their library's history on their website.  They use my recommended "two click" approach to website library histories - one click on "About Us" and a second click on "Library History" after reaching the library's home page.  The Library History page at L.E. Phillips includes links to the new publication  and a variety of other library history resources that have been digitized.

 

I have a previous post about the early public library buildings in Eau Claire.

 

Oregon's Centennial Birthday Party

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on Sunday, October 10, 2010
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I attended the Centennial Birthday Party for the Oregon Public Library today.  As someone who encorages the celebration of important library anniversaries this was an especially nice occasion for me. There have been events in celebration of the centennial througout the year at the Oregon Public Library.  A nice tie in has been the Centennial Community Read project based on Living a Country Year: Wit and Wisdom from the Good Old Days by Jerry Apps. At the birthday party today there was a ribbon cutting ceremony for the impressive new circulation desk created with a wide variety of wood from the community.  A commemorative china plate was painted by 96 year old Oregon resident Clarice Christensen to celebrate the occasion. I came across an interesting historical sign about the Parmelee Library, a for-profit traveling library system that operated in Oregon for several years. 


Public Library Photographs

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broadhead-whi-63779-72.jpgThe Wisconsin Historical Society has recently created a new gallery in its Wisconsin Historical  Images collection featuring photographs of public libraries from the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Thanks to Richard Wambold who assisted with this project for alerting us to this new image gallery.  Publications of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, now the Wisconsin Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning, often included photographs of library buildings. This is a great resource for those libraries which are included in the gallery. The Wisconsin Historical Society will sell copies of digital images in its collections.  These could be used in a permanent or temporary exhibit in the library or just for future reference purposes.  Other possible uses include an online or printed history of your library. The photograph above features an interior view of an early Brodhead Public Library. It is image WHI 63779 in the Wisconsin Historical Society collection.


Governor Doty's Public Library

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doty-72.jpgOne 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.


Library Liquor Fee

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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.


Origin of Wisconsin's Public Library Law

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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.


Library System Anniversaries 2009

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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.


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Door-Kewaunee Bookmobile Demonstration

Posted by Larry Nix
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bkm-wi-door-kewaunee-whs2.jpgThere is an article in today's Wisconsin State Journal  about the 1949 Door-Kewaunee Regional Library bookmobile demonstration.  Christine Pawley who has written extensively on the Door-Kewaunee Regional Library published an article in the Summer 2008 issue of the  Wisconsin Magazine of History entitled "The Wisconsin Idea in Action: Reading, Resistance & the Door-Kewaunee Regional Library, 1950-1952".  Pawley, a Professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Library and Information Studies, serves on the Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center.  We have recently completed a page on this site about Wisconsin's bookmobiles. The image above is from the Wisconsin Historical Society's digital collection.
Tags: Bookmobiles

Digitizing our Library Heritage

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Tuesday, August 26, 2008
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Photograph of an early Marathon County Public Library bookmobile along with library trustees. Reproduced with permission of the library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many library institutions are digitizing a wide variety of printed resources which record our cultural heritage. Wisconsin has a number of major initiatives for digitizing such resources. As is often the case, libraries have a tendency to overlook their own unique heritage when pursuing digital projects. This is not the case with the Marathon County Public Library. One of the collections in the "State of Wisconsin Collection" of digital resources is the "Libraries and Schools of Marathon and Lincoln Counties" collection.  For this collection the Marathon County Public Library has contributed 96 images relating to the library's history. These images include photographs and historic documents.  Other libraries are encouraged to emulate the Marthon County Public Library and digitize similar resources related to your library's heritage.

 

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