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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 Traveling Libraries

Posted by Larry T. Nix
Larry T. Nix
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on Thursday, June 23, 2016
in WLA 125

traveling-libraries-wi-1897-72Under the leadership of Melvil Dewey, the State of New York initiated a state funded traveling library system in 1892.  Traveling libraries were small rotating collections that provided a method for extending library service to rural areas.  These small libraries usually from 30 to a hundred books were located in a post office or store with a volunteer acting as the caretaker of the collection.  In New York the collections stayed in one location for six months before they were rotated.  Michigan initiated a similar system in 1895 and Iowa in 1896.   

Traveling libraries began in Wisconsin in 1896, when Senator James Huff Stout of Menomonie, Wisconsin privately funded a system of these libraries for Dunn County.  He provided 500 books divided into collections of 30 volumes each.  He was assisted in the selection of titles to be included by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission which began in 1895.  Senator Stout along with Lutie Stearns and Frank Hutchins had been instrumental in starting the Commission.  More about Wisconsin's traveling libraries can be found HERE.  The image below shows a Stout Traveling Library bookcase at the Dunn County Historical Society

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