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.

Julia Wright Merrill (1881-1961)

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Friday, October 15, 2010 in Hall of Fame
merrill2-72.jpgJulia Wright Merrill was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on November 4 at the WLA Conference in Wisconsin Dells. Merrill worked for the Wisconsin Free Library Commission on two occasions. From 1903 to 1906 she taught in the WFLC’s library school during the summer and served as a field agent the rest of the year.  She also served as a field agent and instructed part time at the library school from 1917 to 1922.  From 1925 to 1946 she worked at the American Library Association serving in a variety of capacities. She was the first Executive Secretary of the Public Library Association of ALA.  She was a national leader in the extension of public library service. She is included in the Dictionary of American Library Biography, a highly selective compilation of those who have made the greatest contribution to library development in the United States.  Merrill has also been inducted into the Ohio Library Hall of Fame (1975).  Joyce Latham, Assistant Professor, UW-Milwaukee will be presented a program at the WLA Conference in Wisconsin Dells on November 5 entitled “’Circuit Rider’: Julia Wright Merrill and Public Library Extensi0n, 1926 -1944”.  Latham writes about Merrill: “She had a reputation as a quiet but committed advocate for libraries, was well-liked and well respected, but was consistently overshadowed by Carl Milam, the executive secretary of the association.  Given the financial limitations on the ALA during this time, she often functioned as his number two, serving as the Acting Executive Secretary while he was away. However, the lists of great women in librarianship fail to include her and her listing in the Dictionary of American Library Biography is minimal. Hopefully, induction into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame will provide greater exposure to the contributions to this public library extension pioneer.

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