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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Wisconsin's Oldest Library

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pc-wi-belmont-72In 1836 when the United States Congress created the Territory of Wisconsin it appropriated $5,000 for a library. This was the origin of the Wisconsin State Library (now the Wisconsin State Law Library) making it Wisconsin's first and oldest library. At the first meeting of the territorial legislature in Belmont, Wisconsin, a resolution was passed creating a committee to select and purchase books for the library. The first librarian was James Clark, publisher of the Belmont Gazette and the territorial printer. It was not until 1851 that additional money ($2,500) was appropriated to expand the library. Initially, the collection was designed to support the territorial legislature and the state legislature and contained " law books, books of reference, and works on political science and statistics". Emphasis on legal materials increased and in 1876 the library became part of the judicial branch of state government. The need for more general library materials by the legislature was met first by the Library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and later by the Legislative Reference Library of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (now the Legislative Reference Bureau). 
 
The law library survived the Capitol fire of 1904 due to quick action by University of Wisconsin students and Supreme Court Justice R. D. Marshall. In 1999 the Wisconsin State Law Library moved out of its home in the Capitol due to a major renovation of the building. In 2011 the library celebrated its 175th anniversary. A history of the State Law Library is located on its website. The postcard above shows Wisconsin's first capitol in Belmont, Wisconsin. 
 
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Library Legislative Day 1895

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WLA's Library Legislative Day for 2016 will occur next week on February 9th. Library legislation like everything else connected to Wisconsin libraries also has a heritage. In his 1966 history of the Wisconsin Library Association Benton H. Wilcox wrote about WLA's first legislative victory. Lutie Stearns attended the American Library Association meeting in Lake Placid New York in 1894 where she was introduced to the idea of a state library commission. Stearns brought back copies of legislation establishing such commissions in New Hampshire and Massachuttes and was enthusiastic about establishing such a commission in Wisconsin. Wisconsin's first library legislative champion Senator James Huff Stout introduced the necessary legislation early in the 1895 legislative session. According to Wilcox this legislation was the principal subject of discussion at WLA's conference in Madison on February 13 and 14, 1895. At that conference, WLA enorsed the legislation and appointed a committee to work for its enactment.  Wilcox writes: "The legislature was less than enthusiastic but by holding the requested appropriation to only $500 per annum for expenses, Senator Stout was able to bring it through, and it became law late in April, 1895. The Association had achieved its first notable victory." So WLA has been involved in library legislation for 121 years. The result of that early success was the creation of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission which is now the Division for Libraries and Technology. Both Stearns and Stout were inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2008.

Information about this year's legislative day can be found HERE. An important feature of this year's legislative day will be the kickoff of WLA's 125th Anniversary Celebration in the rotunda of the State Capitol at 12:00 noon.

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WLA’s Greatest Legislative Victory

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charles bungeIn December of 1971, the Governor signed into law SB 47.  This bill substantially revised the laws related to public libraries in Wisconsin and enabled the creation of single-county and multi-county public library systems in Wisconsin. It was largely responsible for ensuring that every citizen in Wisconsin not only has access to public library service but has access to the shared resources of all public libraries in Wisconsin.  The bill was passed after years of effort on the part of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA), the Wisconsin Division for Libraries in DPI, and the Wisconsin library community.  It was undoubtedly WLA’s greatest legislative victory.  Next week, one of the key players in making that happen, Charles Bunge, Professor Emeritus, School of Library and Information Studies, UW-Madison, will present a program titled “Portrait of a Legislative Success Story: The Development and Passage of Public Library System Legislation in Wisconsin”. The program will take place on Monday, February 8, at 7:00 p.m. at the Madison Public Library.  It precedes Library Legislative Day which takes place on February 9. The program is sponsored by the Task Force on WLA’s 125th Anniversary and the Legislative Day Planning Committee of WLA. Bunge is a member of the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame.
 
 
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WLA and the American Library Association 1886

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The American Library Association was founded in 1876, fifteen years before the Wisconsin Library Association was established. In 1882 Theresa West (later Theresa West Elmendorf), assistant librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library, became the first member of ALA from Wisconsin. In July, 1886 the American Library Association held its annual meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  There were 131 men and women in attendance making it the largest meeting of the association up to that date.  The site of the conference was Milwaukee’s Plankinton House hotel (see postcard above). Over twenty presentations were made on a wide variety of topics at the meeting by the most prominent librarians in America at that time. A major topic under discussion at the meeting was cooperative cataloging.  Although the meeting was substantive from a professional point of view, it was the post-conference excursion that was the most interesting aspect of the meeting.  Melvil Dewey described the excursion at length in the October, 1886 issue of his publication Library Notes (pages 95-99.  The eight day train excursion was arranged by Klas Linderfelt, Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Librarian. The excursion traveled almost 1,500 miles from Milwaukee to Madison to Kilbourn City (now Wisconsin Dells) to La Crosse to Minneapolis to Bayfield and the Apostle Islands to Oshkosh and back to Milwaukee and Chicago.  The stop at Kilbourn City included a trip through the Upper Dells (before it was dammed) by steamboat and a float trip back down by row boats.  
In appreciation of the efforts of Klas Linderfelt in arranging the excursion, those who participated gave him a small gold plated book inscribed “From the A.L.A. to K.A. Linderfelt In grateful recognition. Milwaukee, 1886”.  Linderfelt became the first president of WLA in 1891 and was also elected president of ALA. However, six years later ALA accepted Linderfelt’s resignation in disgrace as President of the ALA.  Linderfelt is a member of the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame.

Wisconsin’s First Public Library (WLA 125)

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The first public library established under Wisconsin’s 1872 public library law was the Black River Falls Public Library which was established in the fall of 1872.  This library met the three criteria for being defined as a public library under Wisconsin law: 1) it was established by a governmental unit (the Village of Black River Falls); 2) it was free to the users of the library; and it was supported by public taxation. The newly established public library was preceded by an association or membership library established in 1868 that was supported by fees that were paid by members. The Black River Falls Public Library was housed in a number of locations in its early years. In 1882 the library was moved to Mrs. P. H. Howell’s dress making and millinery shop when she became librarian. The photograph above shows the library at this location. Black River Falls was one of sixty Wisconsin communities that received a grant from Andrew Carnegie. It received its grant on March 11, 1914 for $10,000.  The Carnegie building which is now houses a historical museum is shown in the photograph below.  The library moved into a new building where it is now housed in 1995.
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Origin of Wisconsin's Public Library Law (WLA 125)

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erastus-swift-willcoxWisconsin's original public library law was introduced as Assembly Bill no. 87, 1872 on January 26, 1872 by Assemblyman Alexander Graham of Janesville, Wisconsin. It was approved by the Governor on March 22, 1872. The  Graham Bill was remarkably similar to a bill introduced in the Illinois Legislature on March 23, 1871 and signed into law on March 7, 1872.  So similar, in fact, that there is little doubt that Wisconsin's public library law was based on the one in Illinois.  A key provision is almost identical: "Every library and reading-room established under this act, shall be forever free to the use of the inhabitants of the city or village where located, always subject to such reasonable rules and regulations as the library board may find necessary to adopt and publish ...".
Erastus Swift Willcox (pictured above), while librarian of the Peoria Mercantile Library, a forerunner of the Peoria Public Library, conceived the public library law that was substantially enacted by both Illinois and Wisconsin in 1872 and which was a model for a number of other states. Although New Hampshire adopted a state public library law in 1849, a solid case has been made that Willcox's public library law was the first comprehensive state public library law. Willcox realized that the fees charged by mercantile libraries and other membership libraries were not only inadequate for funding library service but that they were significant barriers to library use by the general public. Little is known of Alexander Graham's motivation for introducing the Wisconsin law or the specifics of how he became aware of the Illinois bill. He was, however, a member of the Janesville Young Men's Association, a membership library which experienced some of the same challenges as those of the Peoria Mercantile Library. A major motivating factor in the passage of the Illinois law was the movement to create a public library for the City of Chicago. The City of Chicago passed an ordinance under the new act creating the Chicago Public Library on April 1, 1872. The Black River Falls Public Library was the first public library created under Wisconsin's public library law of 1872.
Originally posted on June 19, 2009
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Governor Doty's Public Library (WLA 125)

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doty-72One of Wisconsin's earliest and most unusual libraries was that of Territorial Governor James Duane Doty (1799-1865). While serving as Territorial Governor (1841-1844) in Madison, Doty made his own personal library of about 500 volumes available for use by the general public. Colonel George W. Bird writing in the August 1907 issue of the Wisconsin Library Bulletin described the library. He noted that there were only two regulations for its use, and these were:
 
"1. Any white resident between the lakes, the Catfish and the westerly hills, his wife and children, may have the privileges of this library so long as they do not soil or injure the books, and properly return them.
2. Any such resident, his wife or children, may take from the library one book at a time and retain it not to exceed two weeks, and then return it, and on failue to return promptly, he or she shall be considered, and published as an outcast in the community."
 
Obviously the restriction to "any white resident" was considerably less than praiseworthy,but allowing access by children was noteworthy. The image of Governor Doty is image #2617 in the Wisconsin Historical Society's Digital Collections.
 
Originally posted on July 15, 2009
 
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William J. Wilson (1948- ) 2015 Hall of Fame Inductee

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wilson photo-72Bill Wilson has provided leadership in the improvement of library services to the people of Wisconsin for more than forty years. He has worked at all levels of public library service - local, regional and state. His past library positions include serving as Institutional Consultant for the Buffalo and Erie County (New York) Public Library; Assistant Administrator, Winding Rivers Library System, La Crosse; Director, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids (1984 - 1991) ; Director, Milwaukee County Federated Library System (1991-1993); Adjunct Faculty, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee  School of Information and Library Science; and Administrator (State Librarian), Wisconsin Division for Libraries and Community Learning in Madison (1993-1996). He has worked as a partner in his own firm, Himmel & Wilson Library Consultants since 1987. For most of his career Wilson has served as an advocate for  and an innovator in library service to special needs populations. Wilson served president of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1987 and recieved WLA's Special Service Award in 1990.  He has served as President of the Wisconsin Center for the Book. He currently serves as President of the board of trustees of the Milton Public Library and as Vice President of the Arrowhead Library System board of trustees.   

Wilson recieved a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts in 1971; a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo in Buffalo, NY in 1974; and pursued Doctoral Studies in Library Science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison from 1988 to 1991. He lives with his wife and business partner Ethel Himmel (also a past WLA President) in Milton, WI.

Wayne A. Wiegand (1946- ) 2015 Hall of Fame Inductee

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wayne weigandWayne A. Wiegand, a native of Manitowoc, WI, is called the “dean of American library historians.” He is the F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies and Professor of American Studies emeritus at Florida State University. While in Wisconsin Wiegand served as a professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1987 to 2002. Wiegand is an outstanding teacher who influenced numerous Wisconsin librarians and an innovative researcher who utilizes qualitative and flexible strategies from the broader fields of the social sciences and humanities in his research. At UW-SLIS Wiegand was a co-founder and director of the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America (now the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture), a nationally respected print history research institution.  He is the author of numerous books and scholarly articles about the history of libraries and librarianship, a number of which have included significant aspects of the history of Wisconsin libraries.  His latest book, published in October 2015, is Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library.

Wiegand was born in Manitowoc, WI on April 15, 1946. He received a BA in history at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh (1968), an MA in history at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (1970), and an MLS at Western Michigan University and a Ph.D. in history at Southern Illinois University (1974). He was Librarian at Urbana College in Ohio (1974-1976), and on the faculty of the College of Library Science at the University of Kentucky (1976-1986). After teaching at UW-SLIS (1987-2002), Wiegand moved to Tallahassee, FL in 2003 where he joined the faculty of Florida State University. While at FSU Wiegand organized and for six years served as Director of the Florida Book Awards, now the nation's most comprehensive state book awards program. He retired in 2010 from Florida State University and currently resides with his wife in Walnut Creek, CA.

See: Wayne Wiegand's Library Trading Card.

Minnie M. Oakley (1861-1915) 2015 Hall of Fame Inductee

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oakleyOakley served as Librarian of the Madison Public Library from 1884 to 1889 before going to work for the State Historical Society Library. Oakley was one of the founders of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1891. She was one of two librarians from Wisconsin who joined the American Library Association in 1886 (only the second and third to do so) when ALA met in Milwaukee. Oakley became Cataloger and Assistant Librarian at the State Historical Society where she worked for 19 years. She served as Secretary-Treasurer of the National Association of State Libraries. She later became Cataloger for the Seattle Public Library and Supervisor of Branches for the Los Angeles Public Libraries.

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Marjorie Sornson Malmberg (1914-2004) 2015 Hall of Fame Inductee

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malmbergMarjorie Sornson Malmberg was the first official legislative advocate and paid employee for the Wisconsin Library Association.  Taking a leave of absence from her job as Director of the Appleton Public Library, she served as WLA's executive secretary and legislative representative at a salary of $150 per month.  She played a pivotal role in the legislative battle for a bill to provide state aid for a bookmobile demonstration project during the 1949 Wisconsin legislative session.  According to Benton H. Wilcox in his 1966 history of the Wisconsin Library Association, "... Mrs. Malmberg, without any previous experience, almost by her own efforts ... secured passage of the bill through both houses of the legislature ... ." She later became one of the early directors of the Washington Office of the American Library Association (1950), where she again played a major role in securing funding for libraries. Prior to her work for WLA, she served as director of the Chippewa Falls and Viroqua public libraries.

Malmberg was born in Cushing, WI on October 28, 1914. She attended Superior Teacher’s College (1932-34), received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1936, and a B.S. (in library science) from the University of Minnesota in 1938. She served as director of the Viroqua Public Library (1938-1942), the Chippewa Public Library (1942-1946), and the Appleton Public Library (1946-1949).  After her service to the Wisconsin Library Association she and her husband moved to Big Island, Virginia. In 1950 she became 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. She is listed in Who’s Who in Library Service 2nd Edition, 1943.

For more on Malmberg and WLA's finest hour Click Here.

Dorothea M. Krause (1909-2003) 2015 Hall of Fame Inductee

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Dorothea Marie Krause served as director of the Wausau Public Library from 1943 until 1965 and then as head of technical processes and acquisitions until her retirement in 1973.  The reason for the change?  "I wanted to be back with people and books," she explained to a Merrill Daily Herald reporter on the occasion of her retirement.  In 1960, more than a decade before the passage of public library system legislation, she was instrumental in setting up a prototype of the Wisconsin Valley Library Service.  Krause served as President of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) in 1949-1950 and was selected as the Librarian of the Year in 1957, the second honoree and first public librarian to receive the award.  In addition, the Wausau Public Library was selected as the 1965 WLA Library of the Year.  In her later years at the Wausau Public Library, she coordinated services to older adults and the visually impaired.  She actively participated in a wide variety of community activities and was among the founding members of the Marathon County Historical Society and the Inter Agency Council, a group that coordinated programs among community groups.   Prior to her move to Wausau, she worked at West Allis Public Library and was the director of the Blue Island (Illinois) Public Library. 

Krause retired to the Plymouth Village retirement community in Redlands, California in 1976 where she led an active life of civic service. She served as chair of both the Vespers Committee and Library Committee of Plymouth Village. Krause was a volunteer at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands, assisting docents with school classes. She received an award and her name appears in the Court of Honor Wall at the museum. She was also active in the Friends of the A.K. Smiley Public Library of Redlands, CA. Krause died July 17, 2003 at the age of 94.

Superior’s Carnegie Library Buildings

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Superior Carnegie Library - Central
 
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Superior, WI was one of three communities in Wisconsin to receive grants from Andrew Carnegie for two library buildings. The other two communities were Madison and Racine. Both of Superior’s Carnegie buildings are at risk. The old central library was abandoned in 1991 when the public library moved to new quarters, and is currently for sale. The sale price is $125,000 and it would probably cost a few hundred thousand more to restore. There was a recent article about the status of the central library which included a number of interior pictures. The branch library in Superior was converted to a private residence (also in 1991) and is still occupied by the owner.  However, it is overgrown with vegetation and looks like it could use some TLC. There is more information about both of the Carnegie buildings on the Library History Buff website.

 

Support for WLA 1898

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wflc-1898-handbook-1-72The Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) was created in 1895. A primary mission of the WFLC was providing support for the development and improvement of local public libraries. One of the tools that it used was an annual handbook full of ideas and useful information. The third edition of the handbook was published in 1898 and included a passage (see below) in support of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA). WLA was created in 1891 and will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2016. This passage in the 1898 handbooks shows that even in its early history WLA was a valuable asset to the Wisconsin library community. 

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Happy National Bookmobile Day!

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 Southwest Wisconsin Bookmobile
This week is National Library Week and one day during the week (today April 15) is designated as National Bookmobile Day. Bookmobiles are a part of Wisconsin library history and the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center has developed a page on its website to highlight this aspect of our library heritage. Take a look.

Some Libraries Sharing Municipal Facilities

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Appleton Public Library
In the previous blog post I discussed some newly completed “stand alone” library buildings in Wisconsin in 1904.  Libraries, however, often shared a facility with another part of municipal government. This often preceded a separate library building. For smaller communities this was more common.  One example of a larger community where this occurred is the public library in Appleton, WI (see postcard above). Appleton dedicated a new municipal building in 1900. The public library occupied the first floor of the building and the City Hall was located on the second floor. This arrangement continued until 1939 when the City Hall moved out of the building, and the library occupied the entire building. 
Clinton Public Library
The Clinton Public Library (above)shared a building with the city hall and the fire department. The library was located on the left side of the building and the fire department on the right side with the City Hall in the middle. Note the fire lookout tower behind the fire station.
Portage Public Library
The Portage Public Library (above) shared a building with the armory (for Company F) and the city hall. The library was on the left, the armory in the middle, and the city hall on the right.
Stoughton Public LibraryThe Stoughton Public Library shared a building with the city hall and an opera house. 
These are only a few examples of public libraries that shared a municipal facility.

Some WI Library Buildings 1904

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Wausaukee Free Library
In 1904 the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) published a book titled Some Wisconsin Library Buildings. The book was comprised primarily of photographs of selected Wisconsin library buildings but also included a tabulation of all library building projects completed or in the process. The book notes that when the WFLC was organized in 1895 there were only three libraries in the state occupying their own buildings, but by 1904 there were 52 buildings either completed or provided for. Included in the tabulation were 29 buildings that had received Carnegie grants totaling $627,000. Other private individuals had made library building grants of $418,500 for a total of $1,045,500 from this source. By far the largest projects listed were the State Historical Society building which cost $620,000 from state funds and the Milwaukee Public Library building which cost $512,000 from municipal funds. The State Historical Society building was designed to house both the Historical Society’s library and the library of the University of Wisconsin. The most unusual library listed and pictured was the Wausaukee Free Library (see image above). The Wausaukee Free Library was established in 1901 and was part of a “social hall” that included the library and reading room, a lunch and dining room, and an amusement room. The building was donated by State Senator Harland P. Bird, a strong library supporter who served as President of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1904-1905. A digitized copy of this book can be found on the Hathi Trust website. 

Library Memorabilia Exhibit at Brown Deer Public Library

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Library Memorabilia Exhibit at Brown Deer Public Library

An exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia will be on display at the Brown Deer Public Library in Milwaukee County for the month of March.  The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit is sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center and has been displayed at libraries around the state.  The exhibit includes souvenir items for many of Wisconsin's Carnegie libraries, the Milwaukee Public Library, other public libraries, and the Wisconsin Historical Society Library. A variety of souvenir items including china, spoons, paperweights, and picture postcards are part of the exhibit. More about the exhibit and how to schedule one for your library can be found HERE.

Library Postcards Revisited

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Manitowoc Public Library
 
Ripon Public Library
 
Postcards depicting libraries are wonderful souvenirs and also serious historical artifacts. The “golden age” of postcard production and collecting was from 1898 to 1918. That period coincided with the construction of large numbers of library buildings as a result of the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie and others. These new libraries were the pride of their communities and were the frequent subject of postcards. This was certainly the case in Wisconsin and there are hundreds of different postcards depicting Wisconsin libraries. Many of these have been featured on this website. Pictured above are two of the more unusual postcards featuring Wisconsin libraries. The first depicts the Manitowoc Public Library and is made of aluminum. The second depicts the Ripon Public Library and is made of leather. Both libraries were Carnegie libraries and both postcards were mailed during the first decade of the 20th century. It was during this period that a variety of novelty materials were used for postcards.  Images of Wisconsin library postcards can also be found on Judy Aulik's website "Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America" and the website of Sharon McQueen and Richard Douglass.

Wisconsin Library Bulletin 1905-1984

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wi-lib-bulletin-1909-72In January, 1905, just over 110 years ago, the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC), the predecessor to the Wisconsin Division for Libraries and Technology, published the first issue of the Wisconsin Library Bulletin (WLB). The new monthly publication was described as "A Magazine of Suggestion and Information" and was devoted to the improvement of Wisconsin's libraries. It reported on library activities and development within the state and provided a wealth of  practical information primarily for public libraries. The WLB was edited by WFLC Secretary Henry E. Legler. The first issue of the magazine can be found on the Hathi Trust website. That issue contained a summary of library progress in Wisconsin and a variety of articles and news items written by leaders in public library development and extension in Wisconsin. These included Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame members Lutie Stearns and Cornelia Martin. The WLB ended with a special issue in 1984. A complete file of the WLB can be found on the Hathi Trust website but not all issues are available in "full view". Efforts are being made by the Division for Libraries and Technology to rectify that situation. The image to the left shows the cover of the Sept.-Oct. 1909 issue.

 

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