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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An enjoyable get-together, WLA's first conference

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Friday, March 11, 2011
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wla-wilcox-bk2-72.jpgOn March 11, 1891, 120 years ago today, twenty-nine people gathered in Madison for the first conference of the Wisconsin Library Association. Benton H. Wilcox in his history of The Wisconsin Library Association 1891-1966  described the first conference: "The program appeared rather hastily prepared. F. A. Hutchins spoke first on the conditions and prospects of town libraries, and later on the manner of establishing free city libraries under the state law.  Dr. Birge talked informally on the proper conduct of free city libraries, while Mr. Thwaites gave a short address on the work of city libraries and local history.  The only business transacted was to elect to their respective offices for another year the temporary officers chosen by the founding meeting on February 11.  If there was any discussion concerning "the future course of the association," as proposed in the call for the meeting, it is not mentioned in the minutes.  No future program was outlined, discussed or even proposed.  Nevertheless the minutes assure us that it had been an enjoyable get-together of library interested people.  There was not another until July, 1884." Although there was not another conference until July, 1884, there was a "get-together" of Wisconsin library folk in Chicago on July 13, 1893 in conjunction with ALA's World's Congress of Librarians which was held at the World's Columbian Exposition. The logo shown here is from the Wilcox history written in 1966 on the 75th anniversary of WLA. That book is now 45 years old and in great need of updating. Perhaps this can be done by WLA's 125th anniversary.

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