History of Reedsburg Public Library

1999- Library Celebrates 100 Years

Story of the library starts back in 1898 when the Women's Club asked a representative from the Wisconsin Library Commission to come and speak to citizens of Reedsburg about starting a library. As a result of this meeting, Mayor Crook appointed a committee to see what interest there was in a public library. Early in 1899, 10 citizens promised to give $25 each and others gave smaller amounts. Some citizens offered ideas to raise funds for the library.

The first library in Reedsburg opened its door May 8, 1899. It was located in the back room of a building owned by Mr. and Mrs. D.O. Stine, on the corner of Main and S. Park Streets (currently Gavin Brothers). The Women's Club members acted as librarians for the first year in order to save on expenses.

In 1900 the Library Board hired the first librarian, Mrs. Hattie Swetland, daughter of Reedsburg's pioneer photographer.

The library was outgrowing its small quarters, so the President of the Library Board, Mr. Hosler, suggested remodeling the room over the engine house in the old City Hall. The Council approved the remodeling and they appropriated $300 for this purpose. The project was completed by the winter of 1901. This new home for the library was at the corner of South Park and Vine Streets. The library remained there for about 11 years.

By 1910 the library had already grown so much that Librarian Mrs. N.A. Cushman was at her "wits end" when she said, "The arrival of the new books at the library furnishes a problem that is becoming harder for the librarian to solve as the shelves are filled to overflowing and the tables which should be used entirely for the magazines and the use of the readers are now having to hold continually from 50 to 100 volumes"

Finally in the summer of 1910, Mrs. George Morse donated a lot on the corner of S. Locust and Vine Streets. The Library Board applied to Andrew Carnegie for money to help construct the building. In January 1911, Mr. Carnegie agreed to give $10,000 to erect a free public library building for Reedsburg. Claude and Starck of Madison designed it. They had also designed libraries for Baraboo, Jefferson, Wisconsin Dells and Darlington. The New Reedsburg Public Library opened on January 1, 1912. When the library opened there were 3,490 volumes, circulation was 14,180 and there were 1,668 borrowers. Hours of operation were Monday, Wednesday, Saturday 2:30 to 5:30 and 7 to 9 pm and Friday 7 to 9 pm.

By 1947 circulation was 30,663 and volumes owned was 12, 372. Space again was becoming a problem so in 1950 the Children's Library was moved to a room in the basement that had been remodeled for that use. By 1971 the adult section was again overflowing. The City Council and Library Board planned a 24'x29' addition to the main library. This addition also added a librarian's office and a supply room to store magazines. It was dedicated as part of the new City Hall Complex, October 3, 1971. Actress Agnes Moorehead, a Reedsburg native, gave a dedication speech and cut the ribbon to the complex.

During the early 90's a space needs assessment was done. By 1995 the crowding was becoming very obvious. Tables were disappearing to make room for books, computers and new formats. At this time Susan Steiner, Library Director approached Mayor Wayne Farber with the idea to appoint a committee made up of Library Board, Friends of the Library and community members. Mayor Farber appointed Dr. James Pawlisch as Chair to the Reedsburg Public Library Memorial Building Committee. Other members were Hayden Groy, Community member, Alice Hofstad, Library Board President, Carl Stolte, Library Board & City Counsel, Nancy Lukes, Friends of the Library, Kate Campbell, Library Board and Susan Steiner Library Director. The Committee's mission was to update the Building Plan Statement and look into building sites, ideas and fund raising. After viewing other communities and libraries, the committee did a presentation for the Mayor and City Council. A potential site was identified and recommended to the Council. Dr. Pawlisch and Mr. Groy were tireless in their efforts to obtain a new library after viewing libraries in other communities our size.

Their efforts were rewarded when on May 7, 1997 ground was broken for the new library. Construction on the building was completed in January, 1998. January 10, 1998 was the last open day for the old library. On that day more than 225 volunteers braved sub zero wind chill temperatures to form a human chain and move books from the old library to the new one.

The new library is 15,400 square feet, has a Community Room, Conference Room, Storytime Room, four study rooms, staff work area, 16 computers and five public terminals for the online card catalog. Eight hundred eighty thousand dollars was raised in pledges and donations, which was more than half of the cost of the nearly $1.6 million building. The library dedication was January 24, 1998 with an open house following the dedication speeches. Ribbon cutting was done by members of the Building Committee and Mayor Farber used the scissors that Agnes Moorehead had used when dedicating the City Hall Complex (with library addition) in 1971. The first open day at the new library was January 26, 1998. Five thousand seven hundred forty-five people visited the building that first week. New records have been set every month since the opening of the library.

History Written- January, 1999

Reedsburg Librarians:

Hattie Swetland
First Librarian
  • Hattie Swetland 1900-05
  • Clara Woodward 1905-07
  • Mrs. N.A. Cushman 1907-43
  • Miss Marjory Davies 1943-?
  • Mrs. Roger Norman ?-1945
  • Miss Arlene Marshall 1946-52
  • Patricia Holloway 1952
  • Miss Prythereh 1953-59
  • Miss Jennie Gray 1959-60
  • Alvin Zipsie 1960-62
  • Miss Arlene Marshall 1962-65
  • Dorothy Meyer 1965-66
  • Mrs. Terry Emberson (nee Lois Scott)
    September 1967-August 1970
  • Miss Joyce Adams 1970-72
  • Rosalie Rentz 1972-76
  • Barbara Hanaway 1976-77
  • Jane Bramwell 1978-80
  • Brian Moyer 1980-81
  • Jane Vriesacker 1981-93
  • Susan Steiner 1993-2012
  • Sue Ann Kucher 2012-