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

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

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo