The Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. It was one of the first state library associations created in the nation. However, there was a question about the exact order of the creation of these state library associations. I did some research on this topic and came up with the following information. The New Hampshire Library Association claims to be the first state library association, but a case can also be made that the New York Library Association was the first. New Hampshire’s claim rests on the fact that the New Hampshire state legislature passed a law on August 16, 1889 specifically authorizing the creation of a state library association. However, it was not until September 12, 1890, while meeting with the American Library Association in White Mountains, NH, that a group initiated the formation of the New Hampshire Library Association under the new law. Meanwhile under the leadership of Melvil Dewey, New York, with the knowledge of and based on the New Hampshire law, took action to create a state library association on July 11, 1890. Notwithstanding New Hampshire’s claim to be number one, I think from a technical/legal perspective New York has the edge. Iowa claims to be the second state library association created (after New York). It took actions in this regard on September 2, 1890. Based on Iowa's claim and date of establishment, New Hampshire would actually be the third state library association to be legally established. The Massachusetts Library Club was created on October 22, 1890, and the New Jersey Library Association was created on Dec. 29, 1890. Wisconsin became the sixth state library association to be created on February 11, 1891 followed closely by Connecticut on February 23, 1891, and Maine on March 1, 1891. A flood of state library associations followed in the next decade under the encouragement of Melvil Dewey and the American Library Association.
Adamovich, Shirley Gray, ed. The Road Taken, The New Hampshire Library Association 1889-1989 (The New Hampshire Library Association, 1989).
Wiegand, Wayne A. Irrepressible Reformer, A Biography of Melvil Dewey (Americal Library Association, 1996).
Iowa Library Association website.
Dewey, Melvil. “Notes on American and State Library Associations”, Library Journal (June, 1891) p. 169-170.
Fairchild, S.C. “Outline of Modern Library Movement in America With Most Important Foreign Events”, Library Journal (February, 1901) p. 73-75.