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.

Wisconsin's Membership Libraries

Posted by Larry T. Nix
Larry T. Nix
Larry T. Nix has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, March 08, 2016 in WLA 125

Milwaukee Young Men's AssociationMembership libraries, sometimes referred to as social libraries, were the predecessors of free public libraries. There were dozens of these libraries in Wisconsin before and after the passage of the 1872 public library law. Membership libraries originated in New England, and it was New Englanders who brought this concept to Wisconsin. Membership libraries were formed when a group of individuals pooled their resources to purchase books which could then be commonly shared. An annual fee was usually required to participate in the membership library. These libraries often struggled from lack of financial resources or strong leadership. Only about a dozen survived for more than ten years. Some of the membership libraries transitioned into public libraries. The oldest of the membership libraries was the Milwaukee Young Men's Association Library (see illustration at left) which turned its assets over to the newly created Milwaukee Public Library in 1878. The Madison Institute Library was formed in 1853 and was replaced by the Madison Public Library in 1875. The longest surviving membership library was the Waupun Library Association which existed from 1858 to 1904. This was largely the result of the efforts of one man - Edwin Hillyer, a Waupun attorney. The library was located in Hillyer's office and he served as Clerk and Librarian at least from 1859 to 1880. A comprehensive history of membership libraries in Wisconsin can be found in the 1973 University of Chicago dissertation of John C. Colson - The Public Library Movement in Wisconsin, 1836-1900.




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

Leave your comment

Guest Saturday, August 24, 2019


Popular Tags

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

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo