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.

  • JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with id: 52

Origin of Wisconsin's Public Library Law (WLA 125)

Posted by
has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 in WLA 125
erastus-swift-willcoxWisconsin'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.
Originally posted on June 19, 2009


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Leave your comment

Guest Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Popular Tags

Marketing-Publicity presentations Tower Hill Wisconsin Anniversaries 28 Pewaukee Public Library 22 Helen Adams Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Clarence Brown Lester Library Buidlings Capitol Fire 1904 Gilbert H. Doane Hall of Fame 2012 Hall fo Fame 2012 Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends State Law Library Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Milwaukee Public Library Gertrude Thurow Gerald A. Somers Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library Council on Library and Network Development Campaign Elroy Public Library campa Woman's Congress trav National Library Week Buttons Peter G. Hamon Larry T. Nix hall of Wisconsin Historical Society bookworm Black River Falls Hall of Fame 2012 WWI Library War Service Library Systems Eratus Swift Wilcox Events & Meetings John Miller Chancellor Bookmobiles Wisconsin Rapids White House Conference on Library and Information Services Library Artifacts Brown County Library background National Bookmobile Day campaign Frank Avery Hutchins WAAL Evansville Wisconsin Eager Free Public Library Hartford Public Library Portage Public Library Brown Deer Public Library COLAND Orrilla Blackshear Sarah Janice Kee Charles Bunge Matthew S. Dudgeon Centennial campaign caly film library memorabilia anniversaries Public library systems Richard E. Krug World War I Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends Ruby Roeder Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee 14 Hall Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries UW-Milwaukee Libraries Library e Academic Libraries Historical Register WLA 125 Library People 11 Cooperative Children's Book Center Bernard Schwab 23 library education library legislation Inform Wisconsin Wilbur Lyle Eberhart Digital Collections Uncategorized Hall of Fame 2018 Brown Deer Public Library Lutie Stearns Wisconsin Free Library Commission Academic Librarians Manitowoc Public Library Irene W. Newman cam Increase A. Lapham Jerome P. Daniels Library people Amer buil Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians Louise S. Robbins Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries Postcards Publications Lutie Eugenia Stearns Cornelia Marving Pierce library exhibit state historical society Exhibits 10 DeForest Area Public Library caly film Suring Area Public Library Hall of Fame 2015 Meter mail slogans caly film 27 WLA 125 Dianne McAfee Hopkins Lowell W. Wilson Hall of Fame 2009 Madison Public Library Wisconsin Library Association 24 Ripon Public Library Hall of Fame 2018 Campaign T. B. Scott Free Public Library WLA 125 People membership libraries Katharine MacDonald Jones Library people Postcards Clinton Public Library Rusk County Community Library Hall of Fame 2016 20 S. Janice Kee Wayne A. Wiegand Wisconsin State Law Library Middleton Public Library Public libraries John J. Jax Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Library Buildings Cam Events Postcards Events & Meetings Nolan I. Neds Marjorie Sornson Malmberg Soughton Public Library Campaign Robert Bocher Jane K. Billings Library History Hall of Fame 2013 Public libraries School of Library and Information Studies J. D. Witter ca American Library Association Library War Service Klaus Linderfelt Ruth Ann Montgomery Carl Spitzweg Hall of Fame 2015 American Library Association I Love Libraries UW-Madison school of library and information studies James Duane Doty CCBC UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies Postcards Edward Asahel Birge Oshkosh Public Library Hall of Fame 2015 Lucy E. Smith Morris Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services Hall of Fame 2015 traveling libraries Zona Gale Beloit Public Library Hall of Fame 2017 Carnegie libraries James Huff Stout Sandra Friedman Dolnick William J. Wilson Milwaukee Public Library Hall of Fame 2008 Dorothea M. Krause Hall of Fame 2015 Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries campaign WLA 125 Black River Falls Public Library McMillan Memorial Library Ice Storm School libraries Hall of Fame 2012 Wisconsin Free Library Commission 21 Anniversaries Beaver Dam Public Library Parcel post Hall of Fame 2014 archives Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Appleton Public Library Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide Wisconsin Library Bulletin Hall of Fame 2011 Delia Ovitz Bob Bochfer books-by-mail Superior Carnegie Libraries Hall of Fame 2010 Special libraries bed and breakfast Library celebrations Pinback buttons Library Trustees Milwaukee Art Museum WHCLIS

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo