Wisconsin Library History

 Wisconsin Library History Chronology

A timeline for the Wisconsin Library Association is located on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center (WLHC) web site. Below I have organized blog entries on the WLHC website that expands on this timeline. Most of the blog entries were created for the 125th anniversary of WLA. I have also included some blog entries for the Library History Buff Blog that are related to Wisconsin library history. The Wisconsin Library Association written by Benton H. Wilcox in 1966 is also a good overview of WLA history up to that point. I have a digitized version of that publication that should be added to the WLHC website. Also a presentation by Charles Bunge about the effort to created a public library system law that was added to the WLHC website can't be found. I have a digital version of that presentation that should be added.

The Wisconsin Library Association was founded in 1891 and got off to a rocky start. It's first big accomplishment was the passage of the law creating the Wisconsin Free Library Commission in 1895. Before there was a Wisconsin Library Association, however, there was quite a bit of library history.

The Wisconsin State Library/State Law Library - Wisconsin's first legally organized library. Established 1836



Department of Public Instruction Founded in 1848
Common School Fund created in 1842 to provide funding for school libraries. Funds were distributed through township libraries by the Department of Public Instruction. The school libraries were open to anyone in the township and could be considered the first public libraries. 

Lyman Copeland Draper
Reuben Gold Thwaites

Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters Chartered in 1870

Social/Membership Libraries were first established in the New England States and can be considered the predecessor of free public libraries. The Library Company of Philadelphia was established in 1731 and could be considered the first of this type of library. The library of the Young Men's Association in Milwaukee is the first social library established in Wisconsin.

Academic libraries

Traveling Libraries and bookmobiles

Janice Kee and the 1956 Library Services Act
Chapter 8 of the Wilcox WLA history has good coverage of this topic

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