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.

Origin of Wisconsin's Public Library Law

Posted by Larry Nix
Larry Nix
Larry Nix has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Friday, June 19, 2009 in Public libraries

erastus-swift-willcox.jpg


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.


Comments

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

Leave your comment

Guest Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Categories

Popular Tags

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

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo