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.

WLA's First Library Conference, March 11, 1891

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Friday, March 11, 2016 in WLA 125
On this date 125 years ago the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) held its first conference in Madison. According to Benton H. Wilcox's history of WLA, only 26 people were in attendance. Of these 15 were librarians. The call for the conference was worded as follows: "All citizens who are interested in library work are cordially invited. ...teachers and school officers are especially requested to attend. The Association aims to help establish new libraries as well as to aid those now in existence. Practical questions in all lines of library work will be discussed and the future course of the Association will be outlined."  Benton writes that "The program appeared rather hastily prepared. F. A. Hutchins spoke first on the conditions and prospects of town libraries, and later on the manner of establishing free city libraries under the state law. Dr. Birge talked informally on the proper conduct of free city libraries, while Mr. Thwaites gave a short address on the work of city libraries and local history. The only business transacted was to elect to their respective offices for another year the temporary officers chosen by the founding meeting on February 11. If there was any discussion concerning “the future course of the association,” as proposed in the call for the meeting, it is not mentioned in the minutes. No future program was outlined, discussed or even proposed. Nevertheless the minutes assure us that it had been an enjoyable get-together of library interested people. There was not another until July, 1894."


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