Marathon County Public Library
||It has been suggested that Marathon County Public Library – Wausau Headquarters be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since February 2013.|
The Marathon County Public Library (MCPL) is a nine-library system that serves Marathon County, Wisconsin, U.S.A. This title also is used to refer to the MCPL - Wausau Headquarters, which is located at 300 North First Street in Wausau, Wisconsin.
In addition to its headquarters in Wausau, MCPL's eight branch libraries are located in Athens, Edgar, Hatley, Marathon, Mosinee, Rothschild, Spencer, and Stratford. The Marathon County Public Library was founded in April 1907 on the site of the MCPL - Wausau Headquarters, but it was known as the Wausau Free Public Library at that time.
As of 2007, the Marathon County Public Library system serves a population of 126,031 people, with 72,347 active library card-holders in Marathon County alone. (Any Wisconsin resident may obtain a library card through MCPL.) Its collection contains 313,008 books, 29,703 audio and video materials, 607 magazine and newspaper titles in print, access to thousands of magazines and newspapers electronically, and 247 art prints.
The early pioneers who settled Marathon County understood the importance of reading and the value of having a library. Early attempts at forming public libraries can be found throughout the county’s history.
As early as 1871 Wausau’s Pine Knot Literary Society established a collection of several hundred books available to individuals for a small subscription fee. Seven years later, the collection, now numbering some 600 volumes, was turned over to the Ladies Literary Club to manage.
In 1897 the city of Wausau began budgeting funds for books for a public library. The Marathon County Board of Supervisors provided a room on the second floor of the County Courthouse for three years rent free to house the growing cabbage and sauerkraut collection.
Over the next ten years the library moved many times. In 1900 the library relocated to the basement of the First National Bank of Wausau. Four years later it moved to the A. W. Weichmann store on the corner of 4th and Jefferson Streets, where it remained until April 1907.
These frequent moves and inadequate budgets brought about a public demand for a more permanent library space in Wausau. In 1904, the steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was asked to help fund a library building in Wausau. He agreed to grant $25,000 on the condition that the city of Wausau set aside land for the building.
Bids for construction and destruction of a library building went out in September 1904. In October 1904 Mr. and Mrs. Walter Alexander donated land to the city of Wausau for a library building and park. The library plan of George W. Maher’s architectural firm was adopted for the proposed structure in July 1905.
On April 3, 1907, the Wausau Free Public Library opened its doors for the first time. The city could point with pride to a collection of almost 5,000 volumes housed in a beautiful limestone building with 6,500 square feet (600 m2) of space. The library was situated in a park-like setting with numerous shade trees, flower gardens, and a fish pond. Nellie Silverthorn was the first librarian. Public support for and use of the new library was immediate. Annual circulation topped 21,000 items.
The popularity of Wausau’s library was such that 20 years later, the collection had grown fivefold from 5,000 volumes to 24,000. Registered users had almost doubled. Annual circulation had grown over sevenfold to 162,000 items.
The growing need for additional space was answered in 1929 when the estate of Mary Parcher funded a 12,000-square-foot (1,100 m2) addition to the building. The “Parcher Addition” tripled floor space.
In the meantime, small public libraries, often established by local women’s clubs had been established throughout the county. As early as 1875 the village of Spencer purchased 30 books at a cost of $19.33 “for the library.” In 1899 the Joseph Dessert Public Library opened its doors in Mosinee. By 1926 Athens had a library housed in the local bank. In 1928 Edgar’s library opened its doors to the public. In 1930 Stratford opened a library for its citizens in the local Knights of Columbus Hall. Spencer’s library opened in 1941 while the Rothschild facility opened in 1949. Library service in Marathon City began in 1954.
To serve those County residents that did not have access to such libraries, the Marathon County Library was established as a W.P.A. project in 1937, and Kay Biwer was hired as a part-time librarian. In 1949 the first Marathon County bookmobile began serving rural residents, initially visiting rural schools once every five weeks, making Marathon County the 4th county in Wisconsin to have a bookmobile. Bookmobile service soon evolved into something much greater, becoming a much-beloved “cultural center” for rural families. The service eventually grew to two bookmobiles crisscrossing the county, delivering books, records and other materials to dozens of stops.
By the mid-1960s the Wausau Library was bursting at the seams. Thanks to $580,000 of federal, city and private funds, a major remodeling project adding 27,300 square feet (2,540 m2) to the library building was undertaken in 1968. Space was once again tripled and the Neoclassical facade replaced by concrete blocks. The remodeled building was unveiled on October 19, 1969.
As the new decade dawned, city and county officials began exploring the idea of merging the Wausau Public Library, Marathon County Library and all the local public libraries into one system. Considerable savings would result from such a consolidation. Accordingly, in 1973, the Marathon County Public Library was established under director Wayne Bassett.
In the years since the merger, library collections countywide were enriched, branch libraries were remodeled and new facilities were built. In January 1995, a new $5.2 million headquarters library opened its doors in Wausau. Echoing the original Andrew Carnegie library, the new building incorporated architectural features from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The long-held goal of having a branch library serving eastern Marathon County was realized in June 2005 when a branch library was built in Hatley. Due to the increase in branch libraries, the bookmobiles, which had been so vital in providing library service countywide, were retired that year as well.
In 2005 almost 74,000 Marathon County residents had library cards. Library programs drew in 36,000 people of all ages. Over 550,000 people visited the Wausau library or one of the branches. Library customers checked out over 810,000 items.
The Wausau Public Library received the Library of the Year Award from the Wisconsin Library Association in 1965, and again in 1997 as the Marathon County Public Library. Three Marathon County librarians received Librarian of the Year awards: Dorothea Krause 1957, Florence Hensey 1973, and Wayne Bassett in 1979.
Tremendous progress in public library service has been seen in the past 100 years in Marathon County. The concept of a public library has evolved from small, privately funded collections maintained by local women’s clubs to an integrated, countywide system linked by computers offering service at nine different locations.
As of December 15, 2009, as part of its "March to a Million" initiative, the Marathon County Public Library surpassed its goal to lend 1,000,000 items within a single calendar year. It was the first time the seven-figure circulation threshold has been reached by MCPL.
The Marathon County Public Library is open seven days a week and serves a population of 126,031. Free Internet access is available, including wireless internet at all locations.
- (SOURCE: courtesy of Marathon County Public Library archive)
- Marathon County Public Library
- Map of all Marathon County Public Library (MCPL) locations in Google Maps
- About the Marathon County Public Library
- MCPL Online Catalog
- MCPL TeenZone / Teen Services
- MCPL Kids' Corner / Children's Services
- Wisconsin Valley Library Service
- Marathon County