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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Eau Claire's Early Public Library Buildings

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on Sunday, April 25, 2010
in Carnegie libraries

 



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The public library in Eau Claire (now named the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library) has benefited from the generosity of several benefactors over the years. An online history of the early years of the public library can be found HERE. In 1894 the library was given rent free space in the new Ingram Building by lumberman Orin H. Ingram. The Ingram Building is shown in the first postcard above. In 1902 a grant of $40,000 was obtained from Andrew Carnegie for a new library building and the grand opening of the building was held on April 21, 1904, just over 106 years ago. A copy of the letter requesting the grant from Andrew Carnegie is located HERE. The second postcard shows the exterior of the Carnegie building and the third postcard shows the interior.


Historical Society Library Renovation Complete

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on Thursday, April 22, 2010
in Special libraries

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I first reported on the plans for renovating the Wisconsin Historical Society's headquarters building which includes the library in a post on May 10, 2009 in connection with Historic Preservation Month. I'm extremely happy to report the renovation is complete and that public tours will take place tomorrow (Friday) from 1 to 4 and on Saturday from 10 to 4. A story about the "Awe-inspiring Reading Room Restoration" appears in today's Wisconsin State Journal. As I indicated in my previous post I believe the building is second only to the State Capitol in its historic importance to the state. I also noted that when the American Library Association met in Waukesha in 1901, conference attendees came to Madison to visit the newly completed building and, "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." On the envelope above mailed in February, 1899, the year before the building opened, Harry Johnson makes known that he is the general contractor for the new building. The postcard shows the reading room before it received a less than perfect restoration in 1955.


A Tale of Two Libraries Exhibit in Menasha

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on Friday, April 02, 2010
in Exhibits

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Located near the fireplace on the main floor of the Menasha Public Library is an extraordinary antique bookcase. The unusual revolving bookcase was part of the Tabard Inn Library, an early 20th century commercial lending library that spanned the nation. The Tabard Inn Library was a subsidiary of an even larger enterprise called the Booklovers Library. Both libraries were founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Seymour Eaton, a Canadian born writer, educator, and entrepreneur. During the month of April there will be a special display at the Menasha Public Library related to the Tabard Inn Library bookcase and Eaton’s two libraries. The display will be located on the Art Wall near the fireplace and in the display case adjacent to the circulation desk of the library. The exhibit  consists of a variety of printed ephemera and artifacts for the two libraries collected that I have collected over the years. In addition to the items related to the Tabard Inn Library and the Booklovers Library there will be selected items from the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit which has been displayed at a number of Wisconsin libraries.


 


Happy Birthday WLHC

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Today marks the second anniversary of the founding of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center (WLHC). The WLHC is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation (WLAF). The WLHC was established on March 19, 2008 by action of the WLAF Board based on a report  [heritage-center-report-3-19-08.pdf] submitted by the WLHC Steering Committee.  This action led to the creation of this website and the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame. The WLHC Steering Committee is looking forward to another successful year.

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  • PG says #
    Woohoo! Happy Birthday, WLHC! And congratulations, Larry!

Pass it On: Wisconsin's Library Heritage

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The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) of the American Library Association (ALA) is sponsoring the first Preservation Week May 9-15, 2010. The theme for the ALCTS Preservation Week is "Pass it On". It is a great theme and can also be considered a plea from the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Steering Committee as it relates to Wisconsin's library heritage. Our library heritage consists of archives, artifacts, architecture, and the memory of those librarians and library supporters who have handed down the legacy that is today's Wisconsin library community. There are lots of ideas on the Preservation Week website that can be used to highlight and promote your library's heritage. Why not undertake some of them this year.


 


Wisconsin's Early Seminary Libraries

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Two of Wisconsin's oldest libraries are connected to seminaries that date back to the 1840s. The Nashotah House Library is part of the  Nashotah House Episcopal Seminary that was founded in 1842. It is pictured in the first postcard shown above. It is located in Nashotah, Wisconsin which is off of I-94 25 miles west of Milwaukee. The Salzmann Library is affiliated with the St. Francis de Sales Seminary, a Catholic seminary, located in St. Francis, Wisconsin which was founded in 1845. The Salzmann Library, shown in the second postcard, serves a larger community which include anyone who works or volunteers at the parishes, schools, and ministries in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.


Angie Cox's Library

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pc-wi-pardeeville-72.jpgIn 2010 the Angie W. Cox Public Library in Pardeeville will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the gift of books from Angie W. Cox that eventually evolved into the public library that exists today. The history of the library is chronicled by Thomas A. Reinbeck and Steve Thompson on the library's website. Angie Williams Cox (1870-1955) played a continuing role through financial contributions to the development of the library that bears her name. A major milestone in the library's history was its legal establishment as a corporation (but not as a public library) in 1925. The Articles of Organization for the library were signed by the library board on October 24, 1925 and the State of Wisconsin granted it corporation status on November 5, 1925. A major controversy developed over a provision in the Articles of Organization that prohibited Catholics from serving on the library board. The controversy led to a legal battle over the support of the library by the City of Pardeeville. The legal issue was finally resolved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1929. It determined that the provision prohibiting Catholics on the library board did not prevent support by the City as long as the library was open to all members of the public. In 1985 when Columbia County became a member of the South Central Library System, the Division for Library Services required that the Pardeeville library be established as a public library under Wisconsin Statutes in order to become a member of the library system. It complied with this requirement. The building shown in the postcard above was dedicated on August 26, 1934. It was the result of a major remodeling of an existing building which was accomplished with contributions from Angie Cox. The library continues to occupy this building today.


WLA's First Library Conference, March 11, 1891

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On this date 119 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."  Due to the resignation of WLA's President Klas Linderfelt there was not another conference until July 1894.


National Bookmobile Day

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As part of National Library Week this year there is going to be a National Bookmobile Day on April 14. On the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website there is a bookmobile page which chronicles some of Wisconsin's bookmobile past.  National Bookmobile Day provides an opportunity for any library that has had bookmobile service in the past to communicate that legacy to the public. There are some wonderful photographs which show the heritage and contribution of the bookmobile to public library service in Wisconsin. Why not see if you have any of these and show them off on National Bookmobile Day. If you still have a bookmobile how about a bookmobile open house. The image above shows Racine Public Library Librarian Muriel Marchant with a vehicle that was referred to as the "library car". 


Celebrating Carnegie's 175th

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stamp-us-baraboo-72b.jpgNovember 25, 2010 will be the 175th anniversary of the birth of Andrew Carnegie. This is a great year to celebrate Carnegie's legacy to the sixty Wisconsin communities and two academic institutions that benefited from library building grants from Carnegie. If a Carnegie building is part of your library's heritage, why not highlight that legacy during this year.  How about a Carnegie birthday during the week of November 25 (Thanksgiving Day) or on some other date that is significant to your library's Carnegie experience.  Take advantage of National Library Week to highlight Carnegie's legacy. Find out about the story of how your community got its Carnegie grant and the subsequent history of the building and try to get an article about the building in your local media. Locate artifacts and photographs that can be used to help tell your Carnegie story. This can be done even if the Carnegie building in your community has been razed. Put your Carnegie story on your blog and/or website. Create an exhibit in the library using artifacts, archives, and photographs. See if you can find souvenir items such as postcards and china items for your exhibit. Postcards are relatively easy to come by on eBay. You may also be able to purchase images of your Carnegie building from the Wisconsin Historical Society. Arrange with your local post office to have a special postmark created to mark your special occasion related to Carnegie. You can even create a postage stamp depicting your Carnegie building (the Baraboo Carnegie building is depicted above). Of course, even if you don't have a Carnegie building you can celebrate your library's heritage around its prior buildings or prior librarians. The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center has an exhibit of Wisconsin library memorabilia that may be available to assist you in your celebration. Contact Larry Nix at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to explore this possibility. More on Wisconsin's Carnegie library buildings can be found HERE.

WLA 119 Today

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pc-wi-madison-capitol-72.jpgOn February 11, 1891 (119 years ago today) a group of librarians and educational leaders gathered in the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the purpose of organizing the Wisconsin Library Association. At that time the State Superintendent's office was located in the State Capitol.  Among those in attendance were K. A. Linderfelt, Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library; R. G. Thwaites, Secretary of the State Historical Society; Frank A. Hutchins, Township Library Clerk of the Department of Public Instruction; E. A. Birge, Professor of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin; Minnie M. Oakley at the State Historical Society and formerly Librarian of the Madison Public Library; and Issac S. Bradley, Assistant Librarian of the State Historical Society. Theresa West Elmendorf, Assistant Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library, played an important role in bringing the meeting about but was not present at the meeting. At the meeting Linderfelt was chosen as President, Thwaites as Vice-president, and Hutchins as Secretary-treasurer.  The first conference of the Association was held in Madison on March 11, 1891. The State Capitol building shown above was where WLA was born. That building was destroyed in a fire in 1904.


Margie Malmberg and WLA's Finest Hour

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malmberg-72.jpgOn February 16 the Wisconsin Library Association will hold its annual Library Legislative Day. For a little historical inspiration for this event, there is nothing as appropriate as the story of Margie Sornson Malmberg and the legislative battle for a bill to provide state aid for a bookmobile demonstration project during the 1949 Wisconsin legislative session. This story is well told in Benton H. Wilcox's The Wisconsin Library Association 1891-1966 (WLA, 1966).  Malmberg who was director of the Appleton Public Library from 1946 to 1949 took a leave of absence from her Appleton job to serve as WLA's executive secretary and legislative representative at the meager salary of $150 per month. According to Wilcox, "... Mrs. Malmberg, without any previous experience, almost by her own efforts ... secured passage of the bill through both houses of the legislature ... ." The bill, however, was vetoed by the Governor. Wilcox continues, "No one gave even an outside chance to the veto being overridden.  But Mrs. Malmberg would not give up. She worked tirelessly, buttonholing assemblymen and senators. ... When the legislature reconvened in September the day of decision came, the veto was overridden, and the Demonstration Bill became law. That, in the minds of many, was the Wisconsin Library Association's finest hour." The significance of this event was that it was the first time the State had appropriated direct support for community public library service.  The result of the legislation was the Door-Kewaunee Bookmobile Project which has been well documented by Christine Pawley. Prior to her service in Appleton, Malmberg (then Margie Sornson) served as librarian of the Chippewa Falls Public Library and the Viroqua Public Library. After her service to the Wisconsin Library Association she and her husband moved to Big Island, Virginia. In 1950, probably because of her legislative experience in Wisconsin, she was appointed Director of the Washington Office of the American Library Association. The Malmbergs moved to Toledo, Ohio in 1960 where Margie went to work for the Public Library of Toledo and Lucas County. She retired there in 1976. The picture of Margie Malmberg above is from the Toledo library's Images in Time digital collection (Object ID: 22342). Take some inspiration from Margie and attend WLA Library Legislative Day. It's not too late.

Fennimore's Public Library

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On a recent trip I stopped in at both the Southwest Wisconsin Library System and the Dwight T. Parker Public Library in Fennimore, Wisconsin. The Public Library is housed in a building which is on the National Register of Historic Places . It was constructed in 1923 and was designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Starck which designed many of Wisconsin's public libraries. The style of the building is impressive and is described as follows by the Wisconsin Historical Society: "The structure incorporates Mediterranean and NeoClassical elements into a rectangular mass reminiscent of their Prairie School designs. Large brackets support the wide overhanging eaves of the clay tile roof. A central NeoClassical entrance projects from the front façade. Terracotta details such as a pediment, colonettes, arches, and bracketed sills accent the simple brick motif." The building was built through the generosity of Dwight T. Parker, a prominent local leader and banker. Parker later left a trust fund to help fund the library also. It is unusual that the library which is 87 years old does not have an addition. If you're ever passing through Fennimore it is well worth a stop. While at the SWLS I was able to pick up a few "no longer in use" library artifacts, and was able to witness the demise of their card catalog from which I salvage a few catalog cards. The SWLS celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.


Former De Pere Public Library

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Thanks to Paul Nelson's Retiring Guy's Digest Blog I recently became aware of a story in the Green Bay Press Gazette about the former De Pere Public Library building. I have a postcard of the building which is shown above. I found out more about the building and its history from a survey of Wisconsin's historic public libraries which was conducted by the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1999. According to the survey the building was designed by the Green Bay architectural firm of Foeller, Schober, and Berners and was erected in 1936 but because of some delays it wasn't opened until 1937. The building is described as a one-story Colonial Revival building that is C-shaped in plan, wrapping around a courtyard garden. It is finished with random, coursed limestone. Below is more about the historic timeline for the De Pere library. The source for some of this information is a paper by Michael C. Vande Hei written in 1985 and entitled "History of the De Pere Public Library 1896-1968".


Public library service in De Pere, Wisconsin dates back to 1878 when a public library was established in the Congregational Church by Reverend E. P. Salmon. In 1889 a public library board was organized to oversee the Salmon collection. The City of De Pere acquired the collection in 1896. In 1937 the public library opened in a new building which was partially funded by the Public Works Administration, a federal program. An addition was added to the building in 1963. In 1968 the De Pere Public Library became part of the newly created Brown County Library. The 1937 building was closed in 2003 and the library was moved to the new Kress Family Branch Library.


Wausaukee's First Free Library

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Harlan P. Bird (1838-1912) made his fortune in the lumber business in Northeastern Wisconsin. In 1902 he established the Wausaukee Free Library from his own funds in the hope that it would prove "sufficiently popular to draw from places of evil resort." He was elected as a state senator in 1902 and served two terms in the legislature. He served as President of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1904-1905.  The library was part of a "social hall" that also included a reading-room, lunch and dining room, and amusement room. Unfortunately the venture proved to be too costly and Senator Bird abandoned this experiment. The image above is WHi-65460 from the Wisconsin Historical Images collection and is part of a collection of public library photographs from the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Wausaukee is now served by the Wausaukee Branch of the Marinette County Consolidated Public Library Service.


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  • Caroline McMahon Unick says #
    Dear Larry, There is such a thing as serendipity! I was just browsing the Chatham Libraries website and saw your page. I saw the ...
  • Larry Nix says #
    Caroline, thanks for commenting on the post and sharing your connection with Wausaukee and Marinette County. Larry
  • Brian Hartnell says #
    Just found your site and the historical info on the library from one of my sources. The web site www.wausaukee.com has this image ...

Northland College Library

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The images above are from the dedication program for a new library building for Northland College in Ashland on June 14, 1941. The Jean Nicolet Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) played a large role in funding the building which was a replica of "Wakefield", the birthplace of George Washington. George C. Allez, Director of the Wisconsin Library School (now the School of Library and Information Studies at UW-Madison), gave the dedication address. The inside the brochure reads in part: "On a hilltop campus, yesterday a part of America's advancing frontier, today at the center of the teeming North American continent, is dedicated this day a new Wakefield, replica of the birthplace of the Father of His Country, sponsored by the women descendents of the gallant men who fought for freedom in the New World." The current Northland College library is the Dexter Library which is located in a more modern facility. The 1941 building is now used by the College for the admissions department.


Milwaukee Soldiers Home Library

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The postcard above shows the historic Wadsworth Library which was built in 1891 and is part of the National Soldiers Home complex in Milwaukee. It is also now part of the Northwestern Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. The Soldiers Home complex was like a village and included, in addition to the library, residential buildings, a post office (Wood, Wisconsin), a recreational hall, and a chapel. The Milwaukee Soldiers Home Foundation has been established to help preserve and restore the buildings in the complex. The Wadsworth Library is designated as Building #3 in the complex and was named for a member of the Board of Managers of the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. At one point the library which served those living at the home had as many as 23,000 books. On June 30, 1998, a fire heavily damaged the library and its contents. The historic district is part of the Milwaukee Veterans Administration Medical Center complex on Milwaukee's west side.


Addendum:


Patricia Lynch provides this additional information about the Wadsworth Library:


The Wadsworth Library continues to serve patients of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. It is open year-round on a regular basis and receives special attention during Reclaiming Our Heritage, the annual veteran tribute and living history event at the VA Medical Center the weekend after Memorial Day. During the event it is open to the general public and is filled with displays on the history of the library and other exhibits. The West Side Soldiers Aid Society supports, among other worthy causes, the Milwaukee VA patient libraries. Information on Reclaiming Our Heritage is available at www.forohmilwaukee.org.


 
 


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  • David Pilgrim says #
    Hello, My name is Dave Pilgrm. My great great grabdfather fought in the civil war for the 29th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He d...
  • Larry Nix says #
    Thanks Patricia for this very helpful information.
  • Patricia A. Lynch says #
    The Wadsworth Library continues to serve patients of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. It is open year-round on a regular...

Library History 2010 Preview

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Each new year provides opportunities to enjoy and celebrate library history. Here is a preview of some of those opportunities in 2010.


The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center will continue to promote and celebrate Wisconsin's library heritage with its ongoing activities including this website, its library memorabilia exhibits, and the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame.


National Library Week which occurs April 11-17 is a great opportunity to make your community aware of your library's heritage. This year's theme is "Communities thrive @ your library."  The Menasha Public Library will be having a special exhibit related to their Tabard Inn Library bookcase in April as part of their celebration.


The American Library Association will launch its first Preservation Week May 9-15 with the theme "Pass It On". The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) of ALA is coordinating this effort. How about a focus on preserving and/or highlighting your library's historical artifacts and archives.


Every five years the Library History Round Table undertakes the sponsorship of a Library History Seminar. This year the event will take place September 10-12 in Madison, Wisconsin. The Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison is coordinating this event. Library historians from around the country will gather to hear presentations on the role of library records as a source of data and information for print culture and library history research.


October is American Archives Month which provides an opportunity to highlight and display library history archives.


November 25 will be the 175 anniversary of the birth of Andrew Carnegie which makes 2010 a great opportunity for communities, libraries, and institutions that have benefited from Carnegie's gifts to celebrate his legacy. In Wisconsin 60 communities received Carnegie grants for 63 public library buildings and two colleges received grants for library buildings.


A number of Wisconsin libraries will celebrate significant anniversaries in 2010 which provide an opportunity to celebrate library history. Here are a few suggestions for doing that.


Library Heritage 2009

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The celebration of Wisconsin's library heritage in 2009 has been rewarding. It was the first full year of operation for the WLHC which was officially established in March, 2008 by the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. The website continues to be the most visible aspect of the WLHC. The website contains both static pages and blog posts. There were 82 blog posts in 2009. A new page featuring Wisconsin bookmobiles was added to the website in 2009. Between 1,300 and 1,400 unique visitors access the website each month.

The second group of individuals was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in October at the WLA Conference in Appleton. This included Charles Bunge, our first living inductee.

The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit was displayed at the South Milwaukee Public Library, the Milwaukee Public Library, and the Door County Public Library. The exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Library was the most extensive exhibit that we have undertaken. An exhibit was also prepared to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Eastern Shores Library System. The WLHC also had an exhibit table at the WLA Conference in Appleton.

The Wisconsin Historical Society created a new gallery in its Wisconsin Historical  Images collection featuring photographs of public libraries from the Wisconsin Free Library Commission with the assistance of Richard Wambold.








Annual volumes of the Wisconsin Library Bulletin have started appearing in Google Books. These include the volumes for 19051907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 19171922

We look forward to another rewarding year of celebrating Wisconsin's library heritage in 2010.








Clarence S. Hean, Agricultural Librarian

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alaconfpc2-72.jpgA postcard mailed in March of 1911 to announce the American Library Association Conference in Pasadena, California provides a link to one of Wisconsin's longtime special librarians. When Clarence S. Hean received this postcard he had been the Agricultural College Librarian and the University of Wisconsin for three years. He didn't complete his service in that position until June, 1952, a span of 44 years. The library he directed is now the Steenbock Memorial Library. A group of letters exchanged with Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg relating to Hean's retirement is located here. The 1911 ALA Pasadena Conference was the conference at which Theresa West Elmendorf was elected the first woman president of the American Library Association. Elmendorf is a member of the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame.


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