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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WLA Members Meet in Chicago in 1893

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Due to the unfortunate resignation of Klas A. Linderfelt as president of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) in 1892 it did not meet formally in 1892 or 1893. However, twelve members of WLA attended the meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) in Chicago in 1893, and they gathered for an informal meeting which is considered to be the second conference of WLA.  As a result of that meeting Reuben G. Thwaites assumed the presidency of WLA. The 1893 ALA Chicago meeting was in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition or World’s Fair. Members of the WLA delegation undoubtedly visited ALA’s library exhibit in the Government Building of the exposition (see postcard above).  They also probably visited the Woman’s Building Library which housed a collection of books written by women from around the world. WLA held its next conference in 1894 in Beaver Dam. Except for 1903 WLA has held a conference every  since 1894. 
 
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ALA Comes to Madison, July 8, 1901

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When the American Library Association met in Waukesha in 1901 from July 3-10, Monday, July 8th, was designated as "Madison day" and more than 300 attendees boarded a train for the Wisconsin Capital where they were met by carriages that took them on a tour of the city. A highlight of Madison day was a visit to the recently completed building of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin which housed both the Society's library and the library of the University of Wisconsin. Each visitor received a handsome booklet about the new building courtesy of the Art Metal Construction Company. An image of the front of the booklet is shown above. A Library Journal report on the Madison visit noted that "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."  The image below of the ALA conference attendees in front of the building is from the Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Collection (Image ID 45544).
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ALA Meets in Waukesha in 1901

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ala-waukesha-medal-72The American Library Association held its second conference in Wisconsin in Waukesha, WI in July of 1901 (the first was held in Milwaukee in 1886). As reported in the magazine Public Libraries: "The twenty-third annual meeting of the A. L. A. was held at Waukesha, Wis., with an enthusiasm and interest that has not been equaled more than two or three times in the history of the association."  The conference was held at the Fountain Spring House, Waukesha's premier resort (see postcard above). The Public Libraries article concluded: "A large majority of the people present attended their first conference of American librarians at Waukesha, and the interest, enthusiasm, and evident progress made at this meeting is due largely to that fact.  For months the local associations in the middle west were at work to interest the librarians of their different states in the importance of being present at Waukesha.  Their efforts were successful, and there was but one note sounded in regard to the meeting, and that was satisfaction."  One day of the conference was designated as “Madison Day” and conference attendees made the trip to Madison to see the new combined building of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the University of Wisconsin Library. More about that in a later post.
 
At early ALA Conferences, mementos were routinely given to participants. At the Waukesha conference, the attendees were given an elaborate medal and a book about Shakespeare. The image of the medal (at left above) is courtesy of the American Library Association Archives which has several examples in its collection. The book (see below) Shakespeare the Man by Walter Bagehot was published by McClure Phillips and Company of New York and 450 of the 1,000 copies published were designated specifically for distribution at the ALA conference.
 
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  • Ginny Moore Kruse says #
    What a treat it was to read about this ALA conference in Wisconsin. The event described strikes me as quaint, but it also seems so...

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.

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