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 Friday, January 19, 2018

Categories

Popular Tags

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

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo