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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Cornelia Marvin Pierce (1873-1957)

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Cornelia Marvin PierceCornelia Marvin Pierce (then Cornelia Marvin) served as head of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission Summer School of Library Training during the summers of 1897 and 1898. In 1899 she became a full-time employee of the Wisconsin Library Commission as library instructor and director of the Summer School of Library Training. It was due largely to the success of the summer training sessions that the Commission established a permanent library school that is now the School of Library and Information Studies of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. In 1905 she left Wisconsin to become the first secretary of the Oregon Library Commission which became the Oregon State Library in 1913. She served as Oregon State Librarian until 1928. She married Walter M. Pierce in 1928. She is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography. She was included on the National Advocacy Honor Roll by the American Library Association in 2000 for her contribution as an advocate for library services in the 20th century.  Pierce was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Further reading: Brisley, Melissa Ann. "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: Pioneer In Library Extension" The Library Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 3, April 1968: 125-153.

Clarence Brown Lester (1877-1951)

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Clarence LesterClarence Brown Lester served as Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission from 1920 to 1949, the longest tenure for any Secretary of the Commission. Prior to becoming Secretary he was chief of the Commission's special training course for reference librarians (1913-1920). The Wisconsin Library Association’s Clarence B. Lester Library of the Year award (now just the Library of the Year Award) was established in his honor in 1955. He served as President of the National Association of State Libraries and also of the League of Library Commissions. Lester was a native of Providence, RI and a graduate of Brown University.  Lester was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.
 

Zona Gale (1874-1938)

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Zona GaleZona Gale, a Portage (WI) native and Pulitzer Prize winning author, was a lifelong friend and champion of Wisconsin's libraries. She used her celebrity to promote libraries wherever possible. She was a member of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (1921-1932) and served as its Chair in 1921-1924 and 1926-1929. She also served as a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. She won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1921 for her play "Miss LuLu Bett". Her home was donated to the City of Portage in 1946 to house the Portage Public Library. She is a member of the Wisconsin Writers Hall of Fame. She received both a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Gale was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Collection.
 

John Miller Chancellor (1896-1980)

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John Miller Chancellor had a distinguished career at the national level where he was an authority and proponent on adult eduction in public libraries. He served as the Adult Education Specialist for the American Library Association from 1934-1942. He resigned from ALA and moved to Wisconsin in 1943 where he became a farmer in Mount Horeb. He was appointed to the Wisconsin Free Library Commission at a critical point in the development of public libraries in Wisconsin. He served on the Commission from 1947-1951 and was its Chair in 1949-1951. He was a major contributor to the publication “The Wisconsin-Wide Library Idea for voluntary Education through Reading” (1948).  On the Commission he defended intellectual freedom during the McCarthy era. He was made an Honorary Member of the American Library Association in 1962. Honorary membership in ALA is conferred on individuals whose contribution to librarianship is "so outstanding that it is of lasting importance to the advancement of the whole field of library service".  Earlier positions included: reference assistant at the New York Public Library; readers advisor at the New Haven (CT) Public Library; and supervising librarian at the U. S. Bureau of Prisons. Chancellor was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012. Chancellor was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Richard E. Krug (1905 -1983)

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Richard KrugRichard E. Krug served as city librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library from 1941 to 1974. During his long tenure as city librarian he transformed the library system. His accomplishments included construction of a major addition to the central library and a reorganization of the system’s branch libraries. Under his leadership the library began the use of data processing in 1947. As city librarian he strongly defended intellectual freedom. He was instrumental in developing the Charles Allis Art Library. He served as President of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1946-1947. He received WLA’s Special Service Award in 1974. The Krug Rare Book Room in the Central Library of the Milwaukee Public Library is named in honor of Krug and his wife Lucile. Krug received both his bachelor's degree (1927) and his law degree (1929) from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He started as the municipal reference librarian at the Milwaukee Public Library in 1930 and became assistant City librarian in 1939. Krug was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Further reading: Ring, Daniel F. "Richard Krug: The Bookman as a Librarian" Libraries & Culture, vol. 29, no. 3 (1994: 257-272.

Gerald A. Somers, (1921-2003)

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Gerald SomersGerald A. Somers served as Director of the Green Bay Public Library (later the Brown County Library) from 1961 to 1987. He played a leadership role in the development of legislation that established Wisconsin’s public library systems. Somers was President of WLA in 1965-1966, and was WLA Librarian of the Year in 1972. He was instrumental in establishing the Brown County Library, the first consolidated county library in the state. Somers served in the U.S. Air Force from 1941 until his discharge in 1945. He later attended Knox College and the University of Chicago where he earned a Bachelor of Library Science Degree in 1948. Somers was employed as a Director of the Norris Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library from 1950-1956; Director of the Eau Claire Public Library from 1956-1961; Director of Kellogg Public Library in Green Bay from 1961-1968, and the Brown County Library from 1968 until his retirement in 1987. Somers was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25, 2012.

Elroy's Public Library and the Ice Storm of 1922

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I've lived in Wisconsin for 32 years and I've never experienced a serious ice storm. I missed the devastating ice storm of March, 1976. In February of 1922 Wisconsin also experienced one the worst ice storms in its history. During that ice storm ice accumulations ranging from one inch to as high as four inches brought down over 15,000 communication poles and caused $10 million in property damage (an enormous sum at that time). Interruptions in power and communications because of the storm ranged from 2 to 15 days. Elroy, WI was one of the communities that was hit hard by the ice storm. I recently acquired the postcard shown above which documents the impact of the storm around the Elroy Public Library.

Brodhead's Early Public Library

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pc-wi-brodhead-detail-enlargedI'm always on the lookout for postcards depicting Wisconsin libraries. I've been so successful that it is not often that I come across one that I don't already have. So it was a real treat when I found a Real Photograph Postcard (RPPC) showing the the public library on the Main Street of Brodhead, WI (shown above). RPPCs as the name implies are photographs printed on a postcard formatted sheet of paper. They are printed in much smaller quantities that other postcards and often depict subjects that can't be found on postcards in other formats. This postcard was mailed on October 30, 1911 from Brodhead to Neenah, WI. The public library is depicted on the far right side of the postcard (see detail to the left). It is located on the second floor of the building and there are covered stairs on the right leading to the library. Also depicted on the postcard is a horse drawn buggy. Although there are people shown on the postcard they have been deliberately blurred. I was able to find some other images (search for "library") of various Brodhead public libraries on the Brodhead Historical Society's website. One of the images depicts the interior of this library. Another gives a better view of the exterior of the library. The public library was founded in 1909. The current building was completed in 2009, 100 years later.

Reedsburg Public Library Carnegie Exhibit

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reedsburg-carnegie-plans.jpgThe first exhibit of library memorabilia sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center this year is at the Reedsburg Public Library. It will remain there for the month of January. The exhibit focuses on the Wisconsin library legacy of Andrew Carnegie. This is very appropriate since Reedsburg's Carnegie library building is 100 years old this month. Although the public library now occupies a new building located across the street from the Carnegie building, the Carnegie is still used to house the library's archive collection. I was delighted to find that the library has preserved and framed the original plans for the Carnegie building which were approved by James Bertram of the Carnegie Corporation on March 11, 1911.

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