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.

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The 1979 White House Conference on Library and Information Services

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The first White House Conference on Library and Information Services (WHCLIS) took place in Washington, D. C. on November 15-19, 1979.  Preceding WHCLIS each state in the nation held a pre-conference.  In September, 1978 148 delegates representing communities and institutions from around Wisconsin gathered in Madison for the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Library and Information Services.  The Governor’s Conference had been preceded by meetings of hundreds of citizens in ten areas of the state in June-July, 1978 to discuss their concerns and needs for library and information services. Four delegates selected at the Governor’s Conference represented Wisconsin at WHCLIS.  They were James White, La Crosse; Jenelle Elder, Milwaukee; Jan Coombs, Marshfield; and John J. Jax, Menomenee Falls. The delegates at WHCLIS passed 64 resolutions to improve the quality and access to library and information services.  A second WHCLIS took place in 1991.  It too was pre-ceded by state level conferences including one in Wisconsin that took place in Madison in February, 1991. 
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WLA’s Centennial Celebration

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The Wisconsin Library Association celebrated its centennial in 1991. As with this year’s 125th anniversary celebration, WLA’s annual conference took place in Milwaukee. The conference theme was “Celebrating Ourselves”.  In the introduction to the conference program, WLA President Peter Hamon wrote : “The choice for our theme became obvious. We serve our various publics every day, year in and year out.  All that service is dedicated to them.  This conference, however, is not.  Instead it honors you, those who came before you, and those who will come after.  You and yours have served Wisconsin for a century.  For these few days, let us celebrate ourselves.” It was at this conference that a resolution was passed welcoming back into the WLA community WLA’s disgraced first president Klas Linderfelt.

Inform Wisconsin: A public library legislation and funding proposal

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Seeking increased funding and legislation in support of libraries has been a long standing priority for the Wisconsin Library Association.  One of the most ambitious such efforts occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  The effort was titled “Inform Wisconsin” and was the result of the Final Report of the Task Force on Public Library Legislation and Funding to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction which was submitted in October, 1988.  Although the report addressed a large number of issues faced by Wisconsin public libraries and public library systems, the lack of adequate funding for public libraries was the most significant issue. To deal with this issue the Task Force recommended a “Public Library Foundation Program” which would ensure that every resident of the state had access to a basic level of public library service. The level of funding needed to accomplish this was deemed to be $12 per capita for a total of $73,000,000 with the funding coming from state aid.  However, up to $62,000,000 of that amount could have been used for property tax relief by local communities already funding libraries at $12 per capita.  The Inform Wisconsin report was widely discussed in the library community and endorsed by the Wisconsin Library Association.  Although a number of its legislative recommendations were accepted by the State Superintendent and ultimately enacted, the Foundation Program was never advanced as a budget proposal by the Department of Public Instruction. 

Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide

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The Wisconsin Library Association published the Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide in 1989. The guide highlights Wisconsin’s literary contributions and connections.  It connects Wisconsin writers with the places in Wisconsin where they lived and wrote about. It is arranged alphabetically by community.  The source for much of the material were the Wisconsin Notable Authors list and the Banta Award recipients.  The guide was dedicated to Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame member Orrilla Blackshear.  In 2012 WLA put the contents of the guide on the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries website.  
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Wisconsin Libraries and World War I

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ala-hey-fellows-72When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914 the United States was officially neutral.  However, it proved impossible for the United States to maintain its neutrality and on April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration of war against Germany. The American Library Association saw an opportunity to provide library service to the men in the armed forces, and in June of 1917 it established a War Service Committee. During and after WWI the ALA Library War Service provided millions of books and magazines to soldiers, sailors, marines, and merchant mariners in the U.S. and in Europe. Wisconsin libraries actively cooperated with the American Library Association in its efforts to provide books for soldiers and sailors during World War I. This included participation in nationwide fundraising efforts. Matthew S. Dudgeon, Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, took a leave of absence to serve in the Library War Service. He was in charge of all camp libraries in the U. S., and later served in France.  A Wisconsin Library War Council was established to help raise funds “To Buy Good Books for the Soldiers” (see receipt above). The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center sponsors library history related exhibits in libraries. One of those exhibits was about the role libraries played in World War I.
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Education for Librarianship in Wisconsin

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Education for librarianship in Wisconsin dates back to 1895 when the newly created Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) sponsored the first Summer School of Library Economy.  The summer school was the idea of Frank Hutchins, the Commission's first Secretary.  The school was personally financed by library legislative champion Senator James H. Stout and was directed by Katharine Sharp, director of the Library School of the Armour Institute in Chicago. A full time Wisconsin Library School, still under the auspices of the WFLC, was founded in 1906 and housed on the second floor of the Madison Public Library. Mary Emogene Hazeltine was its first Perceptor or Principal. She served in this capacity until 1938. In 1938 administrative control of the library school was moved from the WFLC to the University of Wisconsin. It is now the School of Library and Information Studies at UW-Madison and it is fully accredited by the American Library Association.  More on its history can be found HERE. A second library school was established at UW-Milwaukee in 1976. It is now the School of Information Studies and is accredited by the American Library Association. It is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. 
 
The postcard above shows the second floor atrium of the Madison Public Library when it was located in the building financed by Andrew Carnegie, now razed.  It was here that the Wisconsin Library School was located from 1906 to 1938.  Carnegie gave additional funding to enable the library school to be located in the public library building. The message on the back of the postcard which was mailed in 1925 is from library school faculty member Winifred Davis to Mrs. N. A. Cushman, Librarian of the Reedsburg Public Library.  Davis invites Cushman to visit a library school exhibit at the University Exposition.
 
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Wisconsin’s Carnegie Libraries

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Andrew Carnegie was often referred to as the “Patron Saint of Libraries”.  He donated $56,162,622 for the construction of 2509 library buildings throughout the English-speaking parts of the world.  He donated $40,000,000 for the construction of 1679 public library buildings in the United States.  Sixty Wisconsin communities were the recipients of 63 public library grants from Andrew Carnegie.  In addition, two academic institutions also received Carnegie library grants.  Fifteen of these Carnegie buildings have been razed, thirty have been repurposed or are no longer used as libraries, but 20 are still being used as public libraries.  Most of the Carnegie buildings that continue to be used as libraries have received various expansions and modifications. In some cases the expansion is larger than the original Carnegie building. Years in which Carnegie library grants were received (not including the 3 branch libraries) along with the number of libraries: 1901(7); 1902 (9); 1903 (12); 1904 (3); 1905 (8); 1907 (3); 1908 (1); 1911 (2); 1912 (2); 1913 (5); 1914 (3); 1915 (3).  Only six other states received more Carnegie grants than Wisconsin.  The first Carnegie building completed in Wisconsin was the Central Library of the Superior Public Library.  More information about Wisconsin’s Carnegie libraries can be found on Wikipedia.  Judy Aulik’s Library Postcards site has images of Wisconsin Carnegie libraries on postcards.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Andrew Carnegie's birth, the Carnegie Corporation distributed Carnegie's framed portrait to all Carnegie libraries in America in 1935 including those in Wisconsin. One of those portraits is shown above.
 
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Creation of the Council on Library & Network Development

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In 1979 the Wisconsin Legislature created a Council on Library and Network Development (COLAND) within the Department of Public Instruction.  The 19 member advisory council advises the State Superintendent of Public Instruction on issues relating to library and information services in Wisconsin.  Members of the Council are appointed by the Governor for three year terms and include a combination of professional and public members.  COLAND emerged from a study conducted by a Special Committee of the Wisconsin Legislative Council in 1977-1979 which was chaired by Calvin Potter.  The Special Committee was charged with developing recommendations relating to: 1) the state aid formula for public library system aids; 2) the future role and function of the Division for Library Services in DPI; and 3) the role of the State Reference and Loan Library in DPI.  The Wisconsin Library Association actively monitored the work of the Special Committee.  The most controversial aspect of the work of the Committee concerned the issue of governance and administration of the Division for Library Services (DLS).  DLS had been created in 1965 when the former Wisconsin Free Library Commission was eliminated and this function was transferred to the DPI. The Secretary position of the former Commission became a Division Administrator position in DPI and was a non-political civil service appointment.  The Wisconsin library community and members of WLA split on how DLS should be governed and administered in the future. One faction wanted to create a new independent board to oversee state level library development and cooperation efforts and another faction wanted to preserve the Division for Library Services as a unit in DPI. The Special Committee of the Legislative Council recommended the creation of COLAND as compromise and it was incorporated into AB 20, the bill introduced by the Legislative Council as a result of the study and enacted by the Legislature.  As part of AB20, the Administrator position for the Division for Library Services was removed from civil service and the appointment was to be made in the future at the pleasure of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  
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Wisconsin's Traveling Libraries

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traveling-libraries-wi-1897-72Under the leadership of Melvil Dewey, the State of New York initiated a state funded traveling library system in 1892.  Traveling libraries were small rotating collections that provided a method for extending library service to rural areas.  These small libraries usually from 30 to a hundred books were located in a post office or store with a volunteer acting as the caretaker of the collection.  In New York the collections stayed in one location for six months before they were rotated.  Michigan initiated a similar system in 1895 and Iowa in 1896.   

Traveling libraries began in Wisconsin in 1896, when Senator James Huff Stout of Menomonie, Wisconsin privately funded a system of these libraries for Dunn County.  He provided 500 books divided into collections of 30 volumes each.  He was assisted in the selection of titles to be included by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission which began in 1895.  Senator Stout along with Lutie Stearns and Frank Hutchins had been instrumental in starting the Commission.  More about Wisconsin's traveling libraries can be found HERE.  The image below shows a Stout Traveling Library bookcase at the Dunn County Historical Society

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Wisconsin Libraries Keep Us All in a Better State

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bookmark-if-knowledge-72On January 31, 2006 the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation (WLAF) launched the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries in the State Capitol to promote a better understanding of how libraries contribute to the state’s economic growth, education and lifelong learning, and the quality of life in Wisconsin.  With the theme “Support Wisconsin Libraries: Keep Us All in a Better State” the aggressive public relations and fund raising campaign included a variety of promotional materials, radio spot announcements, and a website WisconsinLibraries.org.  The Campaign included an ambitious goal of raising $100,000 a year to promote libraries of all types.  The photo above is a group shot of attendees at the 2007 WLA conference in Green Bay wearing a tee shirt promoting the campaign. It was taken by Steven Platetter.  Promotional materials included posters, bookmarks, and buttons with a variety of catchy slogans including “If knowledge is power, libraries are power plants.”  The Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries has gradually faded from its original enthusiasm and is no longer active.
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  • Ginny Moore Kruse says #
    I still have my red tee-shirt. Whenever ! wear it, at least one good conversation about libraries is certain to take place with so...

Capitol Fire of 1904

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Two of Wisconsin's most significant libraries were dramatically impacted by the fire that began in the late evening of February 26, 1904 and destroyed most of the State Capitol in Madison. Stanley H. Cravens article "Capitals and Capitols in Early Wisconsin" in the Wisconsin Blue Book for 1983-1984 contains an excellent account of the 1904 fire. A pdf version of that article is located HERE. The first library impacted was the Wisconsin State Library (now the Wisconsin State Law Library). Through quick action the library's collection was mostly saved.  Cravens describes the rescue as follows:
 
"University students continued to arrive to aid in the rescue and fire-fighting efforts. Because of thick smoke filling the building, they were unable to use the stairways and several ladders were secured and raised to the windows in the north wing, which contained the State Law Library. Once inside, they began throwing volumes out the windows to snow banks below; others below began stacking the books haphazardly until State Supreme Court Justice R. D. Marshall arrived and organized the students into lines to pass the books hand-to-hand to nearby stores and later, to waiting wagons. According to Solon J. Buck (who later became archivist of the United States), then a senior attending the University of Wisconsin, this effort grew to five to six hundred people 'and it began to get too crowded to work'."
 
The second library impacted, the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, did not fare nearly as well. Henry E. Legler, Secretary of the Commission, described the impact in the Fifth Biennial Report of the Commission. Legler wrote:"The Commission sustained a severe loss by reason of this fire, not only as regards the records, but in the books and material then on hand, and manuscript copies of important publications contemplated.... The Document department [later the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau] which had acquired an exceedingly valuable collection of pamphlets and books, was entirely destroyed.  Much of the destroyed material cannot be replaced, inasmuch as, prior to the fire, most of the state departments had transferred to the Document department the accumulated files gathered for years past.... During the eight years of the Commission's existence, large and useful collections had been made of plans, photographs, and half-tone engravings of library buildings throughout the country, bibliographies, books on library economy, bulletins, reports, blanks, collections of children's books, sample bindings, library devices, and technical tools of every sort.  All of these collections, many of which were thought to be the best extant, were consumed. Of the traveling libraries, 28 were destroyed." Legler continues:  "Libraries throughout the country responded most generously to the request for material.  To the Carnegie library of Pittsburgh, the Commission is indebted for a set of printed cards for 1,000 children's books.  The New York state library sent complete files of its own publications and other library literature.  The public libraries of Cleveland, Providence, Cincinnati, and many older cities supplied valuable publications.  The library of the University of Wisconsin made large contributions of library literature."
 
About the postcard shown above, Cravens writes:"One of the first Madisonians to awake to the sight was 15 year-old Joseph Livermore, who had the presence of mind to use his vest-pocket Kodak to take a most spectacular, if not the only, night photograph of the Capitol fire. Livermore later made copies of the photograph to sell for 10 cents apiece to earn enough money to purchase a bicycle; his father, however, felt the price too exorbitant and made Joseph reduce the price to 5 cents. One of Livermore’s customers was a postcard printer, who ran off and sold hundreds of the postcards, without sharing any of the profits with the boy."
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  • Ginny Moore Kruse says #
    I've never known about this fire. Thank you for such a comprehensive and yet brief report.

Portrait of a Legislative Success Story by Charles Bunge

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As noted in an earlier blog post Charles Bunge, Professor Emeritus of the UW-Madison School of Library & Information Studies and member of the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame, made a presentation titled “Portrait of a Legislative Success Story: The Development and Passage of Public Library System Legislation in Wisconsin” at a program on February 8 of this year preceding WLA Library Legislative Day. Bunge also made the same presentation at the May conference of the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries. Bunge has allowed the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center to post a copy of the text of his presentation on this website.  Passage of 1971 Senate Bill 47 has been described as “WLA’s greatest legislative victory”. The photograph above shows most of those (including Charles Bunge) who helped achieve this victory at the signing ceremony for the bill.
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    It was an informative and entertaining program, and emphasized the need to collect oral histories from our early system leaders an...

WLA Members Meet in Chicago in 1893

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Due to the unfortunate resignation of Klas A. Linderfelt as president of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) in 1892 it did not meet formally in 1892 or 1893. However, twelve members of WLA attended the meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) in Chicago in 1893, and they gathered for an informal meeting which is considered to be the second conference of WLA.  As a result of that meeting Reuben G. Thwaites assumed the presidency of WLA. The 1893 ALA Chicago meeting was in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition or World’s Fair. Members of the WLA delegation undoubtedly visited ALA’s library exhibit in the Government Building of the exposition (see postcard above).  They also probably visited the Woman’s Building Library which housed a collection of books written by women from around the world. WLA held its next conference in 1894 in Beaver Dam. Except for 1903 WLA has held a conference every  since 1894. 
 
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Wisconsin’s Early Public Libraries

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Later this week the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries, a division of the Wisconsin Library Association, will be meeting in Oshkosh for its spring conference. The legal authority for the establishment of public libraries in Wisconsin was the public library law of 1872.  The first public library established under this law in Wisconsin was the Black River Falls Public Library.  The second public library established under the law was the Sparta Public Library which was established in 1874 (see postcard above). Public libraries that followed soon after were the Eau Claire Public Library (1875), the Madison Public Library (1875), the Fond du Lac Public Library (1876), the Marinette Public Library (1878), and the Milwaukee Public Library (1878).  Other early public libraries were the Janesville Public Library (1883), the Neenah Public Library (1884), the Beaver Dam Public Library (1885), the Bayfield Public Library (1886), the Hayward Public Library (1887), the Green Bay Public Library (1888), the Wisconsin Rapids Public Library (1890), and the Chippewa Falls Public Library (1891), the Merrill Public Library (1891), and the Washburn Public Library (1891). The dates of establishment for these public libraries are based on the Fifth Biennial Report of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. It should be pointed out that there are some questions about the exact dates of establishment of early Wisconsin public libraries. An excellent research paper titled Public Library Development in Wisconsin: 1872-1900 by Karla Fingerson (unpublished, December 12, 1971) explores those questions. It should also be noted that free public libraries established under the law of 1872 were preceded by fee based membership libraries in many Wisconsin communities. Also, some early public libraries operated under privately appointed library boards and were not established under the 1872 law. 
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Increase A. Lapham and Wisconsin’s First School Library

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Increase A LaphamIncrease A. Lapham (1811-1875) is considered to be Wisconsin’s pioneer scientist and scholar. In addition to his scientific endeavors, Lapham was a supporter and contributor to Wisconsin’s library collections. His efforts in this regard included: helping to found the Wisconsin Historical Society; helping to found the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters; and developing a personal library of over 1,100 volumes that became part of the library of the University of Wisconsin in 1876.  One of Lapham’s most interesting contributions to libraries involved his role in establishing a school library in Milwaukee in 1851.  At the time Lapham was one of the Milwaukee school commissioners and he led the effort to establish the library.  After a resolution proposed by Lapham to create the library was approved by the school commissioners, Lapham moved quickly to establish the library. This included selecting and ordering 704 books costing $371.61.  A librarian was recruited by Lapham and paid fifty dollars a year. The library was located in the building of Milwaukee’s Young Men’s Association and was open for business on Saturday afternoons.  The early enthusiasm for the library gradually dissipated, and only thirty more books had been acquired by 1857.  In 1878 the Young Men’s Association Library became part of the new Milwaukee Public Library and over the years the original school library collection disappeared. 
The primary source of the information in this post is an article by Graham P. Hawks titled “A Nineteenth-Century School Library: Early Years in Milwaukee” in the Journal of Library History for Fall, 1977, pages 359-363. 
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Oldest Wisconsin Academic Libraries

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Determining the date that an academic library was established is somewhat of a challenge. Technically, a library is established when the responsible institutional governing board takes a specific action to do so.  However, such a specific action in regard to academic libraries is often lacking, and academic libraries sometimes use the date of establishment of the overall academic institution for the date of their establishment. Added to the confusion is the definition of what constitutes a library.  Is it merely a collection of books or something more substantial. In 1850 the Smithsonian Institution undertook a major survey of libraries in the United States. For Wisconsin only two academic libraries responded to that survey.  One of these was the Beloit College Library which reported that “the libraries connected with the college now amount to over 1,000 volumes, and arrangements are made which will insure their progressive increase.”  The other was the Library of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The American Library Directory which is published annually asks each library to indicate the year it was was founded. The Colonel Robert H. Morse Library of Beloit College indicates that it was founded in 1849.  The Todd Wehr Memorial Library of Carroll College in Waukesha indicates that it was founded in 1846 which is the date that the College was founded. The General Library System & Memorial Library of the University of Wisconsin at Madison indicates that it was founded in 1850.  The Seeley G. Mudd Library of Lawrence University in Appleton indicates that it was also founded in 1850.  Access to early academic libraries was often extremely limited and sometimes actually denied to undergraduates.  The librarian was usually a junior faculty member who was assigned the responsibility but had limited training as a librarian.
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Academic Libraries & WLA

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The Wisconsin Association of Academic Libraries (WAAL), one of the divisions of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA), is holding its spring conference this week at the Heidel House in Green Lake.  After its founding in 1891 the focus of WLA was primarily public library service. However, academic librarians participated in the Association from its beginning. Walter M. Smith, Librarian of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, was the first academic librarian elected president of WLA (1908). In 1954 the College and University Section, the predecessor of WAAL, was established in WLA. H. Vail Deale was one of the founders of the College and University Section and served as its first chair in 1955-56.  A complete history of WAAL can be found HERE.

Bookmobiles in Wisconsin Library History

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Today is National Bookmobile Day and the focus of this blog post is bookmobiles in Wisconsin library history. Although there were some earlier uses of motor vehicles to deliver library service, bookmobile service as we know it today was first demonstrated in Wisconsin in 1940 using federal funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Three bookmobiles were purchased by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission using WPA funds. One of the three bookmobiles was used for a demonstration in Shawano County. In March, 1942, following a successful demonstration, the first autonomous bookmobile service in the state was established in Shawano County. Bookmobile service in Shawano County continues today through the Shawno City-County Library. One of the three bookmobiles served Grant, Iowa, Crawford, and Rock counties. Operational funding for this demonstration which only served children was provided through contributions from 26 American Legion posts. The image above shows children using this bookmobile.  The first state funding for public library service in Wisconsin funded a bookmobile demonstration in Door and Kewaunee Counties in 1950-52. Although the demonstration was a success in terms of use by the residents of those counties, a referendum to continue the service failed in Kewaunee County. Although a similar referendum passed in Door County, both referendums were required to pass in order to continue the service.  In 1956 federal funding was made available to extend public library service to rural areas through the Library Services Act. The Wisconsin Free Library Commission developed a state plan for using this funding. It included the development of regional library systems, and bookmobiles were one component of that plan.  By 1993 there were 21 bookmobiles operating in Wisconsin.  Since then the number of bookmobiles has been reduced to eight. More about Wisconsin bookmobile history can be found HERE.
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National Library Week in WI

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Today is the first day of National Library Week with a national theme of “Libraries Transform”. Wisconsin has a long history of participating in National Library Week which began in 1958 as a joint project of the American Book Publishers Council and the American Library Association. Each state was expected to establish a statewide committee to promote the week, and WLA did so. WLA’s NLW Committee initiated a major public relations project under the leadership of Beryl Hoyt in 1961-62 involving the development of television public service spots. As an outgrowth of Wisconsin’s 1962 National Library Week program and under the leadership of Mrs. Bruno V. Bitker, the Friends of Wisconsin Libraries (FOWL) was founded on April 21, 1963. In 1964 WLA received the first Grolier Award for the most effective state National Library Week program in the nation.  National Library Week was promoted on mail with slogans produced by the meter postage machines of libraries and other organizations. Some examples of early National Library Week slogans on meter mail are shown above.
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ALA Comes to Madison, July 8, 1901

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When the American Library Association met in Waukesha in 1901 from July 3-10, Monday, July 8th, was designated as "Madison day" and more than 300 attendees boarded a train for the Wisconsin Capital where they were met by carriages that took them on a tour of the city. A highlight of Madison day was a visit to the recently completed building of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin which housed both the Society's library and the library of the University of Wisconsin. Each visitor received a handsome booklet about the new building courtesy of the Art Metal Construction Company. An image of the front of the booklet is shown above. A Library Journal report on the Madison visit noted that "There was but one opinion of the entire party in regard to the beauty and arrangement of the building, and that was satisfactory to the highest degree."  The image below of the ALA conference attendees in front of the building is from the Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Collection (Image ID 45544).
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