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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"

Chapter  29

Eau Claire Public Library

By Miss A. E. Kidder

(-as transcribed from pages 443 - 444)

The first public library and reading room was established in June, 1875.  The president of the association was H. C. Howland; vice-president, Rev. J. F. Dudley; secretary, F. W. Woodward.  A large room in the rear of the postoffice, which was then in Putnam block on Grand avenue, was secured and eighteen hundred dollars was raised by subscription.  The room was furnished, one hundred volumes were donated and Miss Jessie Hoyt was chosen librarian.  An entertainment was given by the Mendelssohn quartette to aid the fund and citizens were liberal with money and gifts of books.  This place was rented until April, 1894, when Mr. O. H. Ingram gave the use free of charge of a spacious room in the Ingram block, corner of Grand avenue and Farwell streets, and Mrs. Sears was elected librarian, with Miss Hoyt as assistant.  Miss Sutermeister succeeded in 1895 and in 1896 Miss E. D. Biscoe.  The librarians in charge since that time have been Miss Durtin, Miss Hawkins, Miss Mary A. Smith, Mrs. B. S. Cronk and the present incumbent, Miss Laura M. Olsen.  In 1904 Andrew Carnegie gave the city forty thousand dollars to erect a library building.  A site on the corner of east Grand avenue and Farwell street was chosen and purchased for seven thousand dollars, a large part of which was donated by leading citizens.  The building is of Bedford stone, blue for steps and lower wall courses, and buff for the remainder; an auditorium in the basement has a seating capacity of four hundred.  Five thousand dollars was appropriated by the city for library maintenance yearly, and since 1911 the sum has been raised to six thousand dollars.  The librarian has four assistants and the service is excellent in all respects.  A large room is beautifully furnished and equipped for the use of children, and is in nearly constant use by them on Saturdays and out-of-school hours.  The library is open daily from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m. and the reading rooms also on Sundays from 2:30 to 6 p. m.  The number of volumes is 22,610; the circulation for the past year 80,198.  The library has deposit stations in the Fourth and Tenth wards of the city.  The officers of the library board are:  President, W. K. Coffin; vice-president, M. S. Frawley; secretary, William W. Bartlett, assisted by eight directors.

Eau Claire was the first city in Wisconsin next to Milwaukee to place trained librarians in charge of its free circulating library, and for years was one of the two in Wisconsin best administered.  The shelves contained many rare and curious books, pamphlets and papers contributed by friends.  The average increase yearly is 900 volumes, many having been added to the department of useful arts.  The reference room has steadily grown in demand, and is used by from one hundred to one hundred and fifty persons daily.  The reading room is well patronized, fifty-nine monthly periodicals are taken, thirty-eight weeklies and fourteen dailies.  A few shelves of Tabard Inn books are a supplement to the fiction department.

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