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.

Subscribe to feed Viewing entries tagged Eratus Swift Wilcox

Origin of Wisconsin's Public Library Law (WLA 125)

Posted by Larry Nix
Larry Nix
Larry Nix has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, January 26, 2016
in WLA 125
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


Popular Tags

Madison Public Library Black River Falls WLA 125 Wisconsin Rapids campa American Library Association Library War Service Milwaukee Public Library Matthew S. Dudgeon Hall of Fame 2015 Hall of Fame 2015 National Library Week Campaign 10 DeForest Area Public Library caly film library education Hall of Fame 2012 state historical society Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide Dianne McAfee Hopkins library memorabilia Gerald A. Somers Lutie Stearns books-by-mail Buttons Hall of Fame 2015 Marjorie Sornson Malmberg library legislation Academic Librarians Wisconsin Free Library Commission trav Portage Public Library Increase A. Lapham bookworm Evansville Wisconsin UW-Madison school of library and information studies Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library campaign Hartford Public Library membership libraries WLA 125 CCBC WLA 125 Zona Gale WHCLIS Inform Wisconsin Carl Spitzweg Events & Meetings Anniversaries Library people Lutie Eugenia Stearns Campaign Library History Manitowoc Public Library WWI Library War Service Brown County Library Uncategorized COLAND Gilbert H. Doane Capitol Fire 1904 ca Wisconsin State Law Library traveling libraries Special libraries Anniversaries Brown Deer Public Library Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Postcards 14 Parcel post Clinton Public Library Library People White House Conference on Library and Information Services Delia Ovitz Beaver Dam Public Library Elroy Public Library Dorothea M. Krause McMillan Memorial Library Meter mail slogans Academic Libraries Bookmobiles Library Artifacts 21 Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies Wisconsin Historical Society National Bookmobile Day Public libraries Larry T. Nix caly film hall of School of Library and Information Studies Superior Carnegie Libraries Hall of Fame 2015 Cornelia Marving Pierce Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services Exhibits Milwaukee Art Museum Hall of Fame 2010 William J. Wilson Carnegie libraries Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians Hall of Fame 2011 anniversaries Hall of Fame 2015 Middleton Public Library World War I People Ice Storm WLA 125 24 Hall of Fame 2016 Digital Collections Orrilla Blackshear Library Trustees presentations James Duane Doty Suring Area Public Library Edward Asahel Birge Postcards Library people Postcards Hall of Fame 2012 Charles Bunge Tower Hill Wisconsin Irene W. Newman Library Systems Gertrude Thurow I Love Libraries bed and breakfast Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries 27 Rusk County Community Library Amer Brown Deer Public Library Hall of Fame 2009 Events Wayne A. Wiegand State Law Library library exhibit Events & Meetings campaign Hall of Fame 2008 Ripon Public Library T. B. Scott Free Public Library Appleton Public Library Jane K. Billings Publications Beloit Public Library Wisconsin Free Library Commission background Postcards 11 Clarence Brown Lester Centennial Pinback buttons Oshkosh Public Library Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Bernard Schwab Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Library e Eratus Swift Wilcox Historical Register Cooperative Children's Book Center 28 Wisconsin Library Association Public libraries Library Buidlings 20 Nolan I. Neds Wilbur Lyle Eberhart archives John Miller Chancellor Milwaukee Public Library campaign Cam American Library Association Eager Free Public Library WAAL Klaus Linderfelt Hall of Fame 2012 Ruth Ann Montgomery 23 James Huff Stout Jerome P. Daniels UW-Milwaukee Libraries Wisconsin Library Bulletin Hall of Fame 2014 Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee Hall of Fame 2013 Hall fo Fame 2012 Public library systems 22 Woman's Congress School libraries caly film Hall Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends Campaign J. D. Witter Katharine MacDonald Jones Black River Falls Public Library Peter G. Hamon Library Buildings Frank Avery Hutchins S. Janice Kee buil Pewaukee Public Library Richard E. Krug Soughton Public Library Sarah Janice Kee Marketing-Publicity Council on Library and Network Development cam Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Library celebrations

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo