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

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

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo