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.

Margie Malmberg and WLA's Finest Hour

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Saturday, February 06, 2010 in Library artifacts
malmberg-72.jpgOn February 16 the Wisconsin Library Association will hold its annual Library Legislative Day. For a little historical inspiration for this event, there is nothing as appropriate as the story of Margie Sornson Malmberg and the legislative battle for a bill to provide state aid for a bookmobile demonstration project during the 1949 Wisconsin legislative session. This story is well told in Benton H. Wilcox's The Wisconsin Library Association 1891-1966 (WLA, 1966).  Malmberg who was director of the Appleton Public Library from 1946 to 1949 took a leave of absence from her Appleton job to serve as WLA's executive secretary and legislative representative at the meager salary of $150 per month. According to Wilcox, "... Mrs. Malmberg, without any previous experience, almost by her own efforts ... secured passage of the bill through both houses of the legislature ... ." The bill, however, was vetoed by the Governor. Wilcox continues, "No one gave even an outside chance to the veto being overridden.  But Mrs. Malmberg would not give up. She worked tirelessly, buttonholing assemblymen and senators. ... When the legislature reconvened in September the day of decision came, the veto was overridden, and the Demonstration Bill became law. That, in the minds of many, was the Wisconsin Library Association's finest hour." The significance of this event was that it was the first time the State had appropriated direct support for community public library service.  The result of the legislation was the Door-Kewaunee Bookmobile Project which has been well documented by Christine Pawley. Prior to her service in Appleton, Malmberg (then Margie Sornson) served as librarian of the Chippewa Falls Public Library and the Viroqua Public Library. After her service to the Wisconsin Library Association she and her husband moved to Big Island, Virginia. In 1950, probably because of her legislative experience in Wisconsin, she was appointed Director of the Washington Office of the American Library Association. The Malmbergs moved to Toledo, Ohio in 1960 where Margie went to work for the Public Library of Toledo and Lucas County. She retired there in 1976. The picture of Margie Malmberg above is from the Toledo library's Images in Time digital collection (Object ID: 22342). Take some inspiration from Margie and attend WLA Library Legislative Day. It's not too late.

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