Marathon County Public Library

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The Marathon County Public Library - Wausau Headquarters (current building)

The Marathon County Public Library (MCPL) is a consolidated county library with nine locations in Marathon County, Wisconsin, U.S.A.

The Marathon County Public Library has its headquarters in Wausau, and branch libraries 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 2012, the Marathon County Public Library system serves a population of 134,735 people, with more than 75,000 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 Marathon County Public Library operates in cooperation with the Wisconsin Valley Library Service (WVLS), a state library system of 26 public libraries and 212 non-public libraries.

Wausau Free Public Library as it appeared when it opened in 1907,[1]
1910 view of Wausau Free Public Library, showing some of the beautiful gardens.[1]

Early years[edit]

The first library in Wausau was formed in 1871 by the Pine Knot Literary Society, a men’s literary club.[2] The club had more than 700 books, some of which were purchased and other were donated to the collection by the club members.[2] The library was kept in the offices of the Wisconsin River Pilot newspaper and residents could purchase membership to the club and the right to check out books for $3 per year or 25 cents per week.[3] In 1879, the Pine Knot Literary Society donated their library to the Ladies Literary Club of Wausau, who managed the collection under the same subscription arrangement until 1897, when the Wausau Free Public Library was established.[4] At this time, the city of Wausau agree to appropriate five percent of its license fees each year (between $600 and $1,750) to purchase books for the library.[3] Around this time, the library was moved to the northwest room on the second floor of the courthouse where it remained, rent free, for three years courtesy of the Marathon County board.[2]

By 1904, the library collection had moved several times – from the basement of a bank to a store building – and had no permanent home.[2] On July 5, 1904, the Wausau City Council adopted a resolution to accept a gift of $25,000 from steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to build a library building.[2] Walter and Sarah Alexander in 1905 donated the land from Walter’s uncle Walter McIndoe’s homestead to the city to use as a park and location for the library building.[2] On July 11, 1905, the library board accepted plans designed by architect George W. Maher and began construction.[2]

Carnegie Building (1907)[edit]

The new library 3,402 square foot building opened on April 3, 1907.[2] The first librarian was Nellie Silverthorn, daughter of Willis C. Silverthorn, a founding member of the Pine Knot Literary Society.[3] When the library opened, it held 4,968 books and served 4,785 registered users.[5]

According to a June 30, 1912, report, 50,427 book were borrowed from the Wausau Public Library by 5,788 patrons. The library held 7,976 books.[2]

In 1925, Walter Alexander donated more land for the library and park, allowing space for the library to expand, under the condition that the land only be used for the library and public park.[6]

Parcher Addition (1929)[edit]

By the 1920s, the library was overcrowded. According to a 1923 report, the library circulated 114,492 books and held 54,634 books in its collection.[7] The library board voted to put a 4,187 square foot addition onto the library, increasing the square footage to 15,200 square feet.[8] The addition also provided a community room with space for 300 people, committee meeting rooms and a kitchen.[9] The money for the $80,000 addition came from the estate of Mary Single Parcher, who had written a clause in her will establishing the Parcher Welfare Fund, to be used in a manner “most likely to promote the pleasure and happiness of the city of Wausau.” [9] The addition was dedicated on April 12, 1929.[10]

Formation of Marathon County Library and Bookmobiles (1937)[edit]

In 1937, the county established the Marathon County Library to help provide library services to the county, not just Wausau, as a Works Progress Administration project.[11] The Marathon County Library operated out of the Wausau Public Library for several years before moving operations to the Marathon County Courthouse Annex in 1951.[12] The Marathon County Library, in 1948, had a $5,000 budget and was given a $5,000 appropriate to purchase a bookmobile.[13] The county library operated all community libraries including the bookmobiles except the Wausau Public Library and the Joseph Dessert Library in Mosinee.[14] The library operated 15 library stations in the county, including in the communities of Athens, Brokaw, Edgar, marathon, Norrie, Rothschild, Spencer, Stratford, Unity, Halder, Radar Base (in the town of Harrison), Gad Community Center (Town of Bern), Cherokee (Colby), Mount View Sanitorium and the Nurses’ Home.[15]

In 1953, the county owned 33,000 books and circulation was 317,873, up from 290,766 in 1952.[16] By the 1960s, that number had doubled. In 1969, the county library owned 99,628 books and circulation was 1,399,830.[17]

The first bookmobile in Marathon County was purchased in 1949 and housed 3,000 books. The bookmobile made a circuit around the county every five weeks. (Boneske) The library purchased a second bookmobile in 1961.[18]

1968 Addition[edit]

Between 1929 and 1969, the number of borrowers at the Wausau Public Library doubled each decade and the auditorium and kitchen were reappropriated for bookshelves and programming areas. By 1966, the library again was overcrowded.[3] In 1965, the library held more than 87,000 books and served more than 23,000 people. (Friends, 1965) On May 10, 1966, the Wausau City Council approved a $589,000 addition to the library. The city of Wausau borrowed $415,000 – its share of the costs - $193,000 came from a federal grant and $30,000 was raised through private donations. (WDRH, May 11, 1966) The 29,860 square foot addition made it the largest library in the county. ([3]

Consolidation (1974)[edit]

By 1972, both the Wausau Public Library and the Marathon County Library each had a collection of more than 100,000 books and materials – Wausau had 247,255 and Marathon County had 132,669.[19] The county, however, had inadequate facilities and the majority of Wausau Library patrons were residents outside the city.[20] On Sept. 20, 1972, Edward Fromm, president of the Marathon County Library Board approached Robert See, president of the Wausau Public Library Board, about merging the two libraries. The first meeting of the joint boards occurred on Nov. 1, 1972 and the Marathon County Board and the Wausau City Council approved the merger in 1973.[21] On Jan. 1, 1974, the Marathon County Library and the Wausau Public Library merged to form the Marathon County Public Library and all library operations moved to the Wausau Public Library building.[21]

Renovations and Remodel[edit]

After about 75 years, the original Wausau library building was falling into disrepair. The building had cracked plaster, leaking roofs, drafty spaces and rotting rafters.[22] In 1990, the library closed for two weeks for asbestos removal.[23] Both the Wausau city council and the Marathon County board agreed that the library needed to be repaired, but could not agree on how to pay for the project.[22] Finally, on Feb. 11, 1992, the Wausau Common Council Committee of the Whole approved a plan in which the city would build the new library on the grounds of the existing building and lease it back to the county to recoup costs.[24] On Aug. 25, 1993, the city broke ground on the new library.[25] The project cost $5.3 million and the costs were split between the city of Wausau and Marathon County. (WDH Jan. 12, 1995) The new library opened on Jan. 3, 1995.[26]

Current[edit]

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.

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.

The Marathon County Public Library is open seven days a week. Free Internet access is available, including wireless internet at all locations.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b (SOURCE: courtesy of Marathon County Public Library archive)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i “History of Marathon County and Representative Citizens,” by Louis Marchetti, published 1913 by Richmond-Arnold Publishing Co., Chicago.
  3. ^ a b c d e “Wisconsin Heartland: The Story of Wausau and Marathon County,” by Michael Kronenwetter, published 1984, Pendell Publiishing Co., Midland, Mich.
  4. ^ “Wausau in 1900,” compiled by George Alfred Martin, published Dec. 25, 1900, as a supplement to the Wausau Pilot, The Central Wisconsin and the Wausau Herald newspapers, Wausau, Wis.
  5. ^ Friends of the Wausau Library informational brochure, 1965
  6. ^ Letter to the Wausau City Council from Walter Alexander, Sept. 30, 1925
  7. ^ Wausau Record Herald May 23, 1924
  8. ^ Wausau Pilot, Jan. 17, 1929
  9. ^ a b Wausau Daily Record Herald March 13, 1939
  10. ^ Wausau Pilot, April 18, 1929
  11. ^ Wausau Daily Record Herald Aug. 29, 1984
  12. ^ Librarian’s Report, Kay Biwer, 1954
  13. ^ Librarian’s Report, Kay Biwer, 1954
  14. ^ A Study of the Marathon County Library Program, George Boneske master’s thesis, 1954
  15. ^ Librarian’s Report, Kay Biwer, 1954
  16. ^ A Study of the Marathon County Library Program, George Boneske master’s thesis, 1954
  17. ^ Annual Library Report, Kay Biwer, 1969
  18. ^ Wausau Daily Record Herald, 1961
  19. ^ Report on Proposed Merger of Wausau Public Library and Marathon County Library, Vivian Maddox, March 7, 1973
  20. ^ Report on Proposed Merger of Wausau Public Library and Marathon County Library, Vivian Maddox, March 7, 1973
  21. ^ a b Wausau Daily Herald, Aug. 29, 1984
  22. ^ a b Wausau Daily Herald, May 17, 1984
  23. ^ Wausau Daily Herald, Sept. 7, 1990
  24. ^ Wausau Daily Herald, Feb. 12, 1992
  25. ^ Wausau Daily Herald, Aug. 25, 1993
  26. ^ Wausau Daily Herald, Jan. 12, 1995

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°57′35″N 89°37′51″W / 44.959652°N 89.630887°W / 44.959652; -89.630887