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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Library Artifact from Hell

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Friday, October 24, 2008
in Library artifacts

Over the years I have collected a variety of library artifacts which reflect Wisconsin's library heritage.  Many of these are included in the exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia which is sponsore by the WLHC. Most of these artifacts have been relatively easy to acquire, but one artifact required considerably more effort.  I call it the library artifact from hell and here is its story.


With the beginning of the restoration of the Capitol's East wing in 1999, the State Law Library moved out of the Capitol into temporary quarters. A decision was made to discard all of the library's heavy cast iron shelving except for a few sections that would be used in the Supreme Court Reading Room in the Capitol. The shelving was dismantled and piled on the lawn of the Capitol. Rob Nurre, a fellow history buff, discovered that the iron shelving was on the way to the dump and mounted a rescue effort in July of 2000.  Rob rented a U-Haul truck and four of us showed up in the morning of one very hot day to salvage as many sections of shelving as each of us thought we could use. I parked my car on the street in a two hour parking spot thinking the task could be taken care of within that timeframe. However, sorting the pieces of heavy iron shelving so that we were assured of having the correct number and kinds of pieces to reassemble the shelving was no easy feat. By the time I realized my two hour parking meter had run out, I already had a $20 ticket. Did I say that it was a hot day.  Did I say that it was heavy iron shelving. After a lunch break during which I discovered that I had another $20 ticket we finally completed loading the U-Haul truck. Rob then drove the truck to each participating person's home where the correct pieces were unloaded. I think it was after 5:00 p.m. when I finally got my pieces unloaded.


I now had lots of different pieces of iron shelving on my garage floor. Because of the weight and height of the shelving, the only place that I could place the shelving was in the garage. The problem was that the only wall in the garage where I could place the shelving was already being utilized. So basically I had to re-arrange the  entire garage in order to put the shelving there. While I was at it, I decided that this was a good time to paint the garage.  When I finally had the garage painted and the wall where I wanted to put the shelving cleared, I still had a bunch of iron pieces of shelving on the garage floor.  Fortunately for me, Rob ageed to come over one Saturday and help me assemble the shelving.


As a result of this effort, I now have four sections of shelving in my garage from the State Law Library that are almost 100 years old. It turns out that this type of shelving has an interesting history. The shelving was originally designed by engineer Bernard Richardson Green for the Library of Congress. The design came to be known as the Library of Congress or Green (Snead) standard. The shelving was manufactured by the Snead & Company Iron Works of Louisville, Kentucky.  If Wisconsin ever gets a library heritage museum, I will be happy to contribute my library artifact from hell. 



wi-capitol-shelves-nix-72.jpgA photograph of the shelves in my garage.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 



wi-capitol-shelves-72.jpgA photograph of the shelves in the Supreme Court Reading Room in the State Capitol.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Mr. Carnegie's Portrait

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on Thursday, October 23, 2008
in Carnegie libraries


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In 1935 to celebrate the centennial of Andrew Carnegie's birth, the Carnegie Corporation of New York donated a framed portrait of Andrew Carnegie to every library in America that had received a Carnegie grant for a library building. I don't know how many of the Carnegie portraits donated to Wisconsin's 63 public library buildings and two academic library buildings still exist, but some of the Carnegie buildings that are used as libraries and some that are used as historical societies still have them prominently displayed. Some that I am aware of include:  Columbus Public Library, Watertown Public Library, Berlin Public Library, Tomah Public Library, Lafayette County Historical Society (former Darlington Public Library), T. B. Scott Library (Merrill, WI), McIntosh Memorial Library (Viroqua, WI), Chippewa Falls Public Library, and the Waupun Heritage Museum (fomer Waupun Public Library).  If you know of others, let me know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


For more on Wisconsin's Carnegie libraries click here.


Madison Public Library History

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Tuesday, October 14, 2008
in Carnegie libraries
On Wednesday, October 15, 5 - 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, Terrie Goren, Director of the Madison Public Library Foundation, will be presenting the video "The History of the Madison Public Library", written and narrated by local author and historian Stuart Levitan. This event is a part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.

The Madison Public Library also has one of the most comprehensive histories on the web that I've seen. It was written by Dr. Bob Kann in 2001 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Madison Public Library. To see the history click here.

Every library should have at least a brief history of the library accessible from its website. Examples of Wisconsin library web histories can be found here.

The City of Madison was one of three Wisconsin communities to receive a second Carnegie grant for a branch library (the other communities were Racine and Superior).  The Carnegie branch library of the Madison Public Library is no longer used as a library.  It now houses the offices of Yahara Builders.  The building is located at 1497 Williamson St. near the corner of Williamson and Baldwin.  It is located at the east end of the Williamson Street Co-op grocery store. The Central Library building funded by Carnegie was razed.

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UW-Madison Library Pre-1900

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on Monday, October 13, 2008
in Postcards
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In 1999 the United States Postal Service issued a pre-stamped postal card depicting an 1879 rendering of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to help celebrate the university's 150th anniversary. The stamp image on the postal card helps tell the history of the University of Wisconsin Library up to 1900.  The University of Wisconsin Library was founded in July, 1850 with the appointment of H. A. Tenney as Librarian.  Tenney had previously been designated as Curator of the Unitversity's Cabinet, a collection of specimens. The first home of the library was North Hall (the building at the top right of the stamp image) which opened in 1851. The library moved into South Hall (the building at the top left of the stamp image) when it was completed in 1855. It moved into College Hall (later Main Hall and now Bascom Hall; the building at the top center of the stamp image) in 1859. At the time of the move it had a collection of about 3,000 volumes.

In 1879 the library moved into Library Hall (now Music Hall, the building at the bottom left of the stamp image) with a collection of around 9,000 volumes. It stayed in this location unil 1900 when it moved to the new State Historical Society of Wisconsin building. It's collection had grown to 75,000 bound volumes by the time it made this move.

The postcard below depicts Library Hall which is now Music Hall. More about this building can be found here.

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Wisconsin Celebrates American Archives Month

Posted by Larry Nix
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in Archives
Archives are essential resources for both library history scholars and library history buffs. Wisconsin is fortuanate to have many excellent archival collections. In celebration of American Archives Month, the Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has created a blog to celebrate Wisconsin's archives. Go to  http://archivesmonth.blogspot.com/. Throughout October, they are posting entries about archival repositories that preserve and make available for use the records of Wisconsin's rich heritage.

Wisconsin's First Library School

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Thursday, October 02, 2008
in Postcards
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 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, now the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 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.

Library education 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.

An excellent web history of SLIS is located here. A collection of digital images was created as part of the library school's centennial celebration in 2006.  Information on Tradition and Vision, a printed centennial history of SLIS, can be found here.

Hutchins, Stout, and Hazeltine will be among the first group of individuals inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame during the WLA Conference in Middleton in November.

The Holy Grail of Library Artifacts

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Tuesday, September 23, 2008
in Library artifacts


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The entire Wisconsin Historical Society Library was housed in this bookcase in 1853. It is currently located on the second floor of the library near the circulation desk. It has been described as the "Holy Grail" of Wisconsin library artifacts. The WHS Library has grown from this small beginning to be one of the world's greatest historical libraries. Few libraries have preserved an artifact that is as significant to its history as is this bookcase to the WHS Library. What is the most historically significant artifact that has been preserved by your library? The WHS Library is included on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.


 


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Another Log Cabin Library

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Friday, September 19, 2008
in Library buildings

pc-wi-wabeno-wlhc.jpg


On September 10, I posted an entry about the Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin which claims to be the oldest log cabin library in the state. That claim has been challenged by the Wabeno Public Library in Forest County which is also located in a log building. Lois Radloff, Director of the Wabeno Public Library, has provided the following information about the library building.



In 1993, the Wabeno Public Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The research for that designation was completed by the Nicolet National Forest Service in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.  The structure was completed by the Chicago Northwestern Railroad as its land office in 1895.  The application for designation on the National Register states "the Land Office turned the building over to the city of Wabeno in 1923 to be used as the library."  It has been in continual use as a library to this day.


Thanks to Lois for bringing this information to our attention.  We have included the Wabeno Public Library on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.


Wisconsin Library Postcards

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Thursday, September 18, 2008
in Postcards
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A real photograph postcard (RPPC) view of the interior of the old Lancaster Public Library. This postcard was mailed from Lancater to Blunt, South Dakota on Sept. 19, 1908. Real photograph postcards are photographs printed on paper with a postcard format backing.


 


Library postcards are one of my favorite kinds of library collectibles. I've been collecting Wisconsin library postcards since 1995 and my collection now consists of about 300 cards which feature 140 different Wisconsin library buildings. Ann Waidelich, a retired Madison librarian and advocate of historical preservation, introduced me to library postcard collecting. Ann has a collection of 283 Wisconsin library postcards which feature libraries in 119 Wisconsin communities. One of these days it would be nice to get these two collections digitized so that images of the postcards could be added to the Web. In the meantime, I will continue to add selected Wisconsin library postcard images to the WLHC website.


There are also several collections of Wisconsin library postcards already available on the Web. Judy Aulik's website "Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America" includes a substantial group of Wisconsin library postcards. As does the Sharon McQueen and Richard Douglas Library Postcard website. The American Library Association Archives is in the process of adding digital images from the postcard collection of Sjoerd Koopman to its website which includes many Wisconsin library postcards. There are also a number of Wisconsin library postcards included in the digital image collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society (search using the term "library building"). 


Postal Librariana Exhibit in Milwaukee

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on Wednesday, September 10, 2008
in Exhibits


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The former Carnegie library building in Sheboygan, Wisconsin is pictured on the envelope above.  All but a portion of the Carnegie building has been razed. One way that communities in the first two decades of the 20th century sought to attract new businesses was through advertising on envelopes. These envelopes typically included pictures on the front of the envelope that depicted significant buildings and attractions in the community. Libraries are often one of the buildings being depicted on these envelopes.


The Sheboygan advertishing envelope is part of my postal librariana exhibit "The Evolution of the American Public Library".  The exhibit includes more than 300 postal and related artifacts.  The exhibit will be on display at Mt. Mary College in the Milwaukee area on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Sept. 12-13). The exhibit is one of many which will be part of MILCOPEX, Milwaukee's annual national level stamp show. For information on the stamp show click here. For information on the exhibit click here.


 


 


Wisconsin's Oldest Log Cabin Library

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Monday, September 08, 2008
in Library buildings

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The Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin claims to be Wisconsin's oldest log cabin library. Are there really more?  The library was founded in 1925 and has been in the same building throughout its history.  Located on County M in Cable, it's certainly worth a visit, so we've added it to the Library Heritage Trail page of the WLHC website. The Forest Lodge Library does something that every library should do.  On its website, it has an "About the Library" section and in this section it has a brief history of the library. Your library's heritage should be part of your marketing/public relations plan and the library's website is a great place to put it front and center.


Update: As it turns out there is another log cabin library in Wabeno, Wisconsin which also claims to be the oldest log cabin library. See the entry on the Wabeno Public Library here.  


Evansville Celebrates a Centennial

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Thursday, September 04, 2008
in Library buildings
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A personalized stamp depicting the Eager Free Library in Evansville


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


The Eager Free Library in Evansville is one of several Wisconsin libraries celebrating significant anniversaries this year.  The building in which the Eager Free Library is housed is one hundred years old this year.  The architect for the building was the architectural firm of Claude and Starck which was responsible for the design of nearly forty libraries in the Midwest. The library's design was the first Prairie School design by Claude and Starck. Local merchant Almeron Eager bequeathed $10,000 for the contstruction of the building in 1902.  When finally completed in 1908 the cost was $16,000.  Ruth Ann Montgomery, a member of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Steering Committee, has written a history of the library for its centennial.


Other Wisconsin libraries celebrating anniversaries include the Milwaukee Public Library which is celebrating the the 130th anniversary of its founding and the 110 anniversary of its building; the Bloomington Public Library which is celebrating its centennial, the Black Earth Public Library which is celebrating its centennial; and the Independence Public Library which is also celebrating its centennial.


Tips of celebrating anniversaries can be found here.


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Library Memorabilia Exhibit

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Wednesday, September 03, 2008
in Exhibits

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The WLHC sponsors an exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia from the collection of Larry T. Nix.  The exhibit will be on display at the Pewaukee Public Library for the month of September. More information about the exhibit is located on the History Exhibit page.

Digitizing our Library Heritage

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on Tuesday, August 26, 2008
in Public libraries
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Photograph of an early Marathon County Public Library bookmobile along with library trustees. Reproduced with permission of the library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many library institutions are digitizing a wide variety of printed resources which record our cultural heritage. Wisconsin has a number of major initiatives for digitizing such resources. As is often the case, libraries have a tendency to overlook their own unique heritage when pursuing digital projects. This is not the case with the Marathon County Public Library. One of the collections in the "State of Wisconsin Collection" of digital resources is the "Libraries and Schools of Marathon and Lincoln Counties" collection.  For this collection the Marathon County Public Library has contributed 96 images relating to the library's history. These images include photographs and historic documents.  Other libraries are encouraged to emulate the Marthon County Public Library and digitize similar resources related to your library's heritage.

 

Carnegie Was Also Academic

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Andrew Carnegie is noted for his gifts for the construction of public library buildings. However, he also gave gifts to help build 108 academic libraries in the United States. In addition to the Carnegie grants for 63 public library buildings in Wisconsin, there were two academic institutions that received Carnegie grants for library buildings - Beloit College and Lawrence University. The Lawrence University Carnegie building was razed in 1974, but the Beloit College Carnegie building still survives. In 1962 it became home to the Pettibone Center for World Affairs. Check out the "Carnegie Libraries" link on the right to find out more about Carnegie library buildings in Wisconsin.


Postcard showing the Lawrence University Carnegie Library Building



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Postcard showing the Beloit College Carnegie Libray Building


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Wisconsin Magazine of History Articles

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Two members of the WLHC Steering Committee have articles in the Summer issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History.  Michael Edmonds is the author of "On the Trail of Paul Bunyan" and Christine Pawley is the author of "The Wisconsin Idea in Action: Reading, Resistance & the Door-Kewaunee Regional Library, 1950-52".  Congratulations to both of them.


Although the Paul Bunyan article by Michael is wonderful, it is Christine's Pawley's article that will be of most interest to the library history buff. Obtaining state funding for the 1950-1952 Door-Kewaunee Regional Library demonstration was one of the Wisconsin Library Associations greatest legislative victories. Pawley's article provides insight into why the county funding referendums which followed the demonstration in Kewaunee and Door counties failed and passed respectively. Passage in both was required for continuation of what was primarily bookmobile service in the rural areas of the counties. The article is well illustrated with some great bookmobile photographs including one of the bookmobile being loaded on the ferry to go to Washington Island.


The Wisconsin Historical Society makes available freely online its archive of the back issues of the Wisconsin Magazine of History from 1917 up through the 2006-2007 volume year. Only the current volume year is not available online. By searching the archive using the terms "libraries" and "librarian" several articles of interest to the library history buff can be found.


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  • Kitty Tiner says #
    Have always wanted to talk to someone about demolishing those beautiful buildings should be a sin........I lived 1 block from on...

A Very Special Library Artifact

Posted by Larry Nix
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in Library artifacts


On a recent trip to Minneapolis I made a point of stopping off at the Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum in Menomonie, Wisconsin.  The Museum is part of the Dunn County Historical Society.  It houses one of Wisconsin's most important library artifacts - Traveling Library #13 of the original 32 traveling libraries established in Dunn County by Senator James Stout in 1896. Traveling libraries were small rotating collections of books. This first demonstration of the traveling library concept in Wisconsin expanded until there were hundreds of traveling libraries throughout the state.


When I indicated to the volunteer museunm staff member the purpose of my visit, I was half expecting that she would not know what I was talking about.  Instead she led me immediately to what is a permanent display of Traveling Library # 13. The museum is well aware of the importance of their unusual library artifact.  For a library history buff like me, it was like visiting a shrine.


Traveling Library #13 is an good example of why the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is not trying to establish a physical library history museum. Instead, the WLHC hopes to identify the location of important Wisconsin library artifacts, archives, and buildings and make this information known to all.  This is an important role for this website. If you have information about any of these historical treasures, we would like to hear from you.


More information on Wisconsin's traveling libraries can be found on the Traveling Libraries Page of this website.


 


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