As noted in an earlier blog post Charles Bunge, Professor Emeritus of the UW-Madison School of Library & Information Studies and member of the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame, made a presentation titled “Portrait of a Legislative Success Story: The Development and Passage of Public Library System Legislation in Wisconsin” at a program on February 8 of this year preceding WLA Library Legislative Day. Bunge also made the same presentation at the May conference of the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries. Bunge has allowed the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center to post a copy of the text of his presentation on this website. Passage of 1971 Senate Bill 47 has been described as “WLA’s greatest legislative victory”. The photograph above shows most of those (including Charles Bunge) who helped achieve this victory at the signing ceremony for the bill.
Due to the unfortunate resignation of Klas A. Linderfelt as president of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) in 1892 it did not meet formally in 1892 or 1893. However, twelve members of WLA attended the meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) in Chicago in 1893, and they gathered for an informal meeting which is considered to be the second conference of WLA. As a result of that meeting Reuben G. Thwaites assumed the presidency of WLA. The 1893 ALA Chicago meeting was in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition or World’s Fair. Members of the WLA delegation undoubtedly visited ALA’s library exhibit in the Government Building of the exposition (see postcard above). They also probably visited the Woman’s Building Library which housed a collection of books written by women from around the world. WLA held its next conference in 1894 in Beaver Dam. Except for 1903 WLA has held a conference every since 1894.
Later this week the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries, a division of the Wisconsin Library Association, will be meeting in Oshkosh for its spring conference. The legal authority for the establishment of public libraries in Wisconsin was the public library law of 1872. The first public library established under this law in Wisconsin was the Black River Falls Public Library. The second public library established under the law was the Sparta Public Library which was established in 1874 (see postcard above). Public libraries that followed soon after were the Eau Claire Public Library (1875), the Madison Public Library (1875), the Fond du Lac Public Library (1876), the Marinette Public Library (1878), and the Milwaukee Public Library (1878). Other early public libraries were the Janesville Public Library (1883), the Neenah Public Library (1884), the Beaver Dam Public Library (1885), the Bayfield Public Library (1886), the Hayward Public Library (1887), the Green Bay Public Library (1888), the Wisconsin Rapids Public Library (1890), and the Chippewa Falls Public Library (1891), the Merrill Public Library (1891), and the Washburn Public Library (1891). The dates of establishment for these public libraries are based on the Fifth Biennial Report of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. It should be pointed out that there are some questions about the exact dates of establishment of early Wisconsin public libraries. An excellent research paper titled Public Library Development in Wisconsin: 1872-1900 by Karla Fingerson (unpublished, December 12, 1971) explores those questions. It should also be noted that free public libraries established under the law of 1872 were preceded by fee based membership libraries in many Wisconsin communities. Also, some early public libraries operated under privately appointed library boards and were not established under the 1872 law.
Increase A. Lapham (1811-1875) is considered to be Wisconsin’s pioneer scientist and scholar. In addition to his scientific endeavors, Lapham was a supporter and contributor to Wisconsin’s library collections. His efforts in this regard included: helping to found the Wisconsin Historical Society; helping to found the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters; and developing a personal library of over 1,100 volumes that became part of the library of the University of Wisconsin in 1876. One of Lapham’s most interesting contributions to libraries involved his role in establishing a school library in Milwaukee in 1851. At the time Lapham was one of the Milwaukee school commissioners and he led the effort to establish the library. After a resolution proposed by Lapham to create the library was approved by the school commissioners, Lapham moved quickly to establish the library. This included selecting and ordering 704 books costing $371.61. A librarian was recruited by Lapham and paid fifty dollars a year. The library was located in the building of Milwaukee’s Young Men’s Association and was open for business on Saturday afternoons. The early enthusiasm for the library gradually dissipated, and only thirty more books had been acquired by 1857. In 1878 the Young Men’s Association Library became part of the new Milwaukee Public Library and over the years the original school library collection disappeared.
The primary source of the information in this post is an article by Graham P. Hawks titled “A Nineteenth-Century School Library: Early Years in Milwaukee” in the Journal of Library History for Fall, 1977, pages 359-363.
Determining the date that an academic library was established is somewhat of a challenge. Technically, a library is established when the responsible institutional governing board takes a specific action to do so. However, such a specific action in regard to academic libraries is often lacking, and academic libraries sometimes use the date of establishment of the overall academic institution for the date of their establishment. Added to the confusion is the definition of what constitutes a library. Is it merely a collection of books or something more substantial. In 1850 the Smithsonian Institution undertook a major survey of libraries in the United States. For Wisconsin only two academic libraries responded to that survey. One of these was the Beloit College Library which reported that “the libraries connected with the college now amount to over 1,000 volumes, and arrangements are made which will insure their progressive increase.” The other was the Library of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The American Library Directory which is published annually asks each library to indicate the year it was was founded. The Colonel Robert H. Morse Library of Beloit College indicates that it was founded in 1849. The Todd Wehr Memorial Library of Carroll College in Waukesha indicates that it was founded in 1846 which is the date that the College was founded. The General Library System & Memorial Library of the University of Wisconsin at Madison indicates that it was founded in 1850. The Seeley G. Mudd Library of Lawrence University in Appleton indicates that it was also founded in 1850. Access to early academic libraries was often extremely limited and sometimes actually denied to undergraduates. The librarian was usually a junior faculty member who was assigned the responsibility but had limited training as a librarian.
The Wisconsin Association of Academic Libraries (WAAL), one of the divisions of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA), is holding its spring conference this week at the Heidel House in Green Lake. After its founding in 1891 the focus of WLA was primarily public library service. However, academic librarians participated in the Association from its beginning. Walter M. Smith, Librarian of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, was the first academic librarian elected president of WLA (1908). In 1954 the College and University Section, the predecessor of WAAL, was established in WLA. H. Vail Deale was one of the founders of the College and University Section and served as its first chair in 1955-56. A complete history of WAAL can be found HERE.
Today is the first day of National Library Week with a national theme of “Libraries Transform”. Wisconsin has a long history of participating in National Library Week which began in 1958 as a joint project of the American Book Publishers Council and the American Library Association. Each state was expected to establish a statewide committee to promote the week, and WLA did so. WLA’s NLW Committee initiated a major public relations project under the leadership of Beryl Hoyt in 1961-62 involving the development of television public service spots. As an outgrowth of Wisconsin’s 1962 National Library Week program and under the leadership of Mrs. Bruno V. Bitker, the Friends of Wisconsin Libraries (FOWL) was founded on April 21, 1963. In 1964 WLA received the first Grolier Award for the most effective state National Library Week program in the nation. National Library Week was promoted on mail with slogans produced by the meter postage machines of libraries and other organizations. Some examples of early National Library Week slogans on meter mail are shown above.
When the American Library Association met in Waukesha in 1901 from July 3-10, Monday, July 8th, was designated as “Madison day” and more than 300 attendees boarded a train for the Wisconsin Capital where they were met by carriages that took them on a tour of the city. A highlight of Madison day was a visit to the recently completed building of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin which housed both the Society’s library and the library of the University of Wisconsin. Each visitor received a handsome booklet about the new building courtesy of the Art Metal Construction Company. An image of the front of the booklet is shown above. A Library Journal report on the Madison visit noted that “There was but one opinion of the entire party in regard to the beauty and arrangement of the building, and that was satisfactory to the highest degree.” The image below of the ALA conference attendees in front of the building is from the Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Collection (Image ID 45544).
The American Library Association held its second conference in Wisconsin in Waukesha, WI in July of 1901 (the first was held in Milwaukee in 1886). As reported in the magazine Public Libraries: “The twenty-third annual meeting of the A. L. A. was held at Waukesha, Wis., with an enthusiasm and interest that has not been equaled more than two or three times in the history of the association.” The conference was held at the Fountain Spring House, Waukesha’s premier resort (see postcard above). The Public Libraries article concluded: “A large majority of the people present attended their first conference of American librarians at Waukesha, and the interest, enthusiasm, and evident progress made at this meeting is due largely to that fact. For months the local associations in the middle west were at work to interest the librarians of their different states in the importance of being present at Waukesha. Their efforts were successful, and there was but one note sounded in regard to the meeting, and that was satisfaction.” One day of the conference was designated as “Madison Day” and conference attendees made the trip to Madison to see the new combined building of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the University of Wisconsin Library. More about that in a later post.
At early ALA Conferences, mementos were routinely given to participants. At the Waukesha conference, the attendees were given an elaborate medal and a book about Shakespeare. The image of the medal (at left above) is courtesy of the American Library Association Archives which has several examples in its collection. The book (see below) Shakespeare the Man by Walter Bagehot was published by McClure Phillips and Company of New York and 450 of the 1,000 copies published were designated specifically for distribution at the ALA conference.