I came across this illustration in an 1886 Library Bureau supply catalog. It gives credit to the Milwaukee Public Library for creating the pencil dater which became a fixture in most libraries in the first half of the 20th century. Does anyone have an example of a pencil dater? Has anyone used one?
Charles R. McCarthy was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame at the Wisconsin Library Association Conference in Appleton on October 22, 2009. McCarthy was the first head of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library which began as the Documents Department of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission and eventually became the independent Legislative Reference Bureau. The Legislative Reference Library was the first of its kind in the nation and served as the model for the Congressional Reference Service of the Library of Congress. McCarthy was a leader in the Progressive Movement and wrote The Wisconsin Idea. McCarthy’s leadership of the Legislative Reference Library was so well thought of by the State Legislature that a memorial plaque of McCarthy was placed in the Assembly Chambers of the State Capitol. When McCarthy died in 1921 his body lay in state in the State Capitol where thousands of people passed his bier.
WLHC Steering Committee member Pete Gilbert at the WLHC booth at the WLA Conference.
The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center hosted a booth in the exhibits area of the 2008 WLA Conference which took place November 4-7 in Middleton. The exhibit featured selected items from the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia Exhibit which is available for display at individual libraries. The booth provided an opportunity for members of the WLHC Steering Committee to interact with a great many conference goers.
A big hit with those viewing the booth exhibit were the library souvenir spoons.
The Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame was created by the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Board as part of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center at its July 16, 2008 meeting. The WLHF will include both librarians and library supporters. The first ten individuals will be inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame at the Awards Banquet of the WLA Conference on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008. Information about the inductees can be found on the Hall of Fame page of this site. The image of Lutie Stearns is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection, Image ID: 29372.
The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center will have a booth at the WLA Conference in Middleton on Nov. 5 and 6. The booth number is 406. The booth will have a display of some of the Wisconsin library memorabilia that is included in the WLHC’s traveling exhibit. You will be able to see the world’s largest collection of Wisconsin library souvenir spoons (12), a selection of library souvenir china, library postcards,library pinback buttons, and a few odds and ends. Please stop by to enjoy the display and let us know your thoughts about the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center.
The WLA Conference is taking place at the Mariott Hotel in Middleton. Exhibit hours run from 10 am to 5pm on Wed. Nov. 5 and 8:30am to 4:30pm on Thurs. Nov 6.
One of the display cases that you will be able to see at Booth 406.
Library history buffs and those interested in architecture won’t want to miss a program at the WLA Conference in Middleton on the Wisconsin Carnegie libraries designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Stark. The program is entitled “The Shared Ideal: The Carnegie Libraries of Claude & Starck” and will take place in the La Crosse Room of the Marriott on Thursday, November 6 from 4:00 to 5:15. The presenter will be Sheridan A. Glen, Board Member, Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts. The description of the program in the WLA Program reads as follows:
“The Madison architectural firm of Claude & Starck received commissions for 25 of 63 Carnegie libraries built in Wisconsin. This slide show, illustrated by postcards, will show the different styles—Classical, Sullivanesque, Prairie, Original, English Gothic, and Swiss Chalet—that Claude and Starck developed for Wisconsin libraries. The legacy of their beautiful libraries seems particularly meaningful, given the importance these libraries were to the development of small town America.”
According to Kristin Visser in Frank Loyd Wright & the Prairie School in Wisconsin, the architectural partnership of Louis Claude and Edward Starck designed hundreds of buildings in Madison and the Midwest including over 40 library buildings.
The Columbus Public Library which was dedicated on November 1, 1912 was one of those library buildings. According to Visser, “The Columbus library is unique among Claude and Starck designs in that it combines elembents of Prairie sbyle with English cottage decorative features.”
The Columbus Public Library which is shown on the postcard below is on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.
At the turn of the 19th century entrepreneur Seymour Eaton established two national commercial libraries that had an impact on Wisconsin. The first of these libraries was the Booklovers Library which provided home delivery of books by subscription. The Booklovers Library might be described as the Netflix of books for this period. It had a circulation in the millions.
The Milwaukee Library Centre for the Booklovers Library was located at 463 Broadway. This photograph is from a 1902 promotional brochure for the Booklovers Library.
The Booklovers Library pre-dated parcel post so delivery was accomplished through a combination of express companies via train and wagon and the Booklovers Library’s own fleet of horse drawn wagons. This illustration from a promotional brochure shows the distribution plan for Eastern Wisconsin. For more on the Booklovers library click here.
The second of Seymour Eaton’s libraries was the Tabard Inn Library which was also a paid subscription library. This library had stations in the form of revolving bookcases located in drug stores and other commercial establishments throughout the United States including Wisconsin. The bookcases held 120 books which were changed from a central location every week.
A photograph of a Tabard Inn Library Bookcase which is currently located in the Menasha Public Library. A member deposited five cents in a compartment in the bookcase The carved message around the top of the bookcase reads “The Best Reading Rooms In the United States Are the Homes of the American People”. The Menasha Public Library is on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail. For more on the Tabard Inn Library click here.
Over the years I have collected a variety of library artifacts which reflect Wisconsin’s library heritage. Many of these are included in the exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia which is sponsore by the WLHC. Most of these artifacts have been relatively easy to acquire, but one artifact required considerably more effort. I call it the library artifact from hell and here is its story.
With the beginning of the restoration of the Capitol’s East wing in 1999, the State Law Library moved out of the Capitol into temporary quarters. A decision was made to discard all of the library’s heavy cast iron shelving except for a few sections that would be used in the Supreme Court Reading Room in the Capitol. The shelving was dismantled and piled on the lawn of the Capitol. Rob Nurre, a fellow history buff, discovered that the iron shelving was on the way to the dump and mounted a rescue effort in July of 2000. Rob rented a U-Haul truck and four of us showed up in the morning of one very hot day to salvage as many sections of shelving as each of us thought we could use. I parked my car on the street in a two hour parking spot thinking the task could be taken care of within that timeframe. However, sorting the pieces of heavy iron shelving so that we were assured of having the correct number and kinds of pieces to reassemble the shelving was no easy feat. By the time I realized my two hour parking meter had run out, I already had a $20 ticket. Did I say that it was a hot day. Did I say that it was heavy iron shelving. After a lunch break during which I discovered that I had another $20 ticket we finally completed loading the U-Haul truck. Rob then drove the truck to each participating person’s home where the correct pieces were unloaded. I think it was after 5:00 p.m. when I finally got my pieces unloaded.
I now had lots of different pieces of iron shelving on my garage floor. Because of the weight and height of the shelving, the only place that I could place the shelving was in the garage. The problem was that the only wall in the garage where I could place the shelving was already being utilized. So basically I had to re-arrange the entire garage in order to put the shelving there. While I was at it, I decided that this was a good time to paint the garage. When I finally had the garage painted and the wall where I wanted to put the shelving cleared, I still had a bunch of iron pieces of shelving on the garage floor. Fortunately for me, Rob ageed to come over one Saturday and help me assemble the shelving.
As a result of this effort, I now have four sections of shelving in my garage from the State Law Library that are almost 100 years old. It turns out that this type of shelving has an interesting history. The shelving was originally designed by engineer Bernard Richardson Green for the Library of Congress. The design came to be known as the Library of Congress or Green (Snead) standard. The shelving was manufactured by the Snead & Company Iron Works of Louisville, Kentucky. If Wisconsin ever gets a library heritage museum, I will be happy to contribute my library artifact from hell.
A photograph of the shelves in my garage.
A photograph of the shelves in the Supreme Court Reading Room in the State Capitol.
In 1935 to celebrate the centennial of Andrew Carnegie’s birth, the Carnegie Corporation of New York donated a framed portrait of Andrew Carnegie to every library in America that had received a Carnegie grant for a library building. I don’t know how many of the Carnegie portraits donated to Wisconsin’s 63 public library buildings and two academic library buildings still exist, but some of the Carnegie buildings that are used as libraries and some that are used as historical societies still have them prominently displayed. Some that I am aware of include: Columbus Public Library, Watertown Public Library, Berlin Public Library, Tomah Public Library, Lafayette County Historical Society (former Darlington Public Library), T. B. Scott Library (Merrill, WI), McIntosh Memorial Library (Viroqua, WI), Chippewa Falls Public Library, and the Waupun Heritage Museum (fomer Waupun Public Library). If you know of others, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org .
For more on Wisconsin’s Carnegie libraries click here.
On Wednesday, October 15, 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, Terrie Goren, Director of the Madison Public Library Foundation, will be presenting the video “The History of the Madison Public Library”, written and narrated by local author and historian Stuart Levitan. This event is a part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.
The Madison Public Library also has one of the most comprehensive histories on the web that I’ve seen. It was written by Dr. Bob Kann in 2001 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Madison Public Library. To see the history click here.
Every library should have at least a brief history of the library accessible from its website. Examples of Wisconsin library web histories can be found here.
The City of Madison was one of three Wisconsin communities to receive a second Carnegie grant for a branch library (the other communities were Racine and Superior). The Carnegie branch library of the Madison Public Library is no longer used as a library. It now houses the offices of Yahara Builders. The building is located at 1497 Williamson St. near the corner of Williamson and Baldwin. It is located at the east end of the Williamson Street Co-op grocery store. The Central Library building funded by Carnegie was razed.