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.

Traveling Libraries

traveling-libraries-wi-1897-72.jpg

Under 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. A blog post about the publication above can be found HERE

The images below were provided by the Dunn County Historical Society.

travel1.jpg

The bookcase pictured below is currently on display at the Society's Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum in Menomonie.

travel2.jpg

 

travel3.jpg


A similar effort was initiated in Wood County by J. D. Witter of Grand Rapids (now Wisconsin Rapids).  

travel4.jpg

A traveling library case used in the Wood County traveling library established and funded by J. D. Witter of Grand Rapids (now Wisconsin Rapids).  Rules for the traveling library were pasted on the inside of the lid of the case [see below]. Images courtesy of the McMillan Memorial Library.


More about the history of the McMillan Memorial Library and the J. D. Witter Traveling Library can be found HERE.

travel5.jpg

 

"This library may be kept from three to six months.
The person in charge is expected to keep a record of the circulation of the books on the book cards provided for that purpose.
When a book is taken by a patron, write the patron's name on the book card and keep the card on file.
When the book is returned the book card must be returned to the book pocket. A list of the books in this collection is sent with the books.
When packing the books to return them, check the list to see that all books
are returned, and RETURN THE LIST.
Please return the book cards for each book.
The library pays the transportation charges both ways."


By 1898, there were already a hundred traveling libraries in Wisconsin.  At that time most of these libraries were funded by private gifts.  Several women’s clubs supported traveling libraries.  The Wisconsin Free Library Commission provided leadership through Lutie Stearns in establishing county traveling libraries.  In 1903 the Commission established a Department of Traveling Libraries with Lutie Stearns as its head.  The Department of Traveling Libraries evolved into what is now the Reference and Loan Library of the Division of Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning.  Stearns often personally delivered the traveling libraries to communities.

The traveling library case below is owned by the Ashland Historical Society Museum.  The case was donated to the Northern Waters Library Service and used by them for a time. Images courtesy of the Ashland Historical Society Museum.

travel6.jpg

 

travel7.jpg


The traveling library case below is located in the Potawatomi Lighthouse on Rock Island in the Rock Island State Park at the tip of Door County.  This traveling library was operated by the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

travel8.jpg

 

travel9.jpg
The Milwaukee County Historical Society has an original lighthouse traveling library bookcase.

 

travel10.jpg

One of the traveling library units from the Stout Free Traveling Library was included in the exhibit of the American Library Association at the Paris Exposition of 1900 (lower left of photograph).  Image from Library Journal, Vol. 25 (1900), facing p. 282.

A great book on this topic:

Books In A Box: Lutie Stearns and the Traveling Libraries of Wisconsin

Categories

Popular Tags

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

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo