The Wisconsin State Legislature authorized the City of Milwaukee to establish a public library on February 7, 1878. Luckily, the new public library did not have to start from scratch; MPL inherited 10,000 books from the Young Men's Association. The Young Men's Association was a subscription library founded in 1847. They collected dues from members to maintain a library and members were permitted to borrow one large volume or two small volumes. They had a reference collection of dictionaries and encyclopedias. There was a newspaper and periodical collection that included publications from across the United States and London. The Young Men's Association also sponsored lectures to help raise funds and educate and entertain their members. Some of the speakers include: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, Henry Ward Beecher, and Horace Mann.
Central Library's Humanities Department has a copy of the catalog of the Young Men's Association books that formed the basis of MPL's original collection, as well as an catalog from ten years earlier. The Rarities collection has the original Act, Rules and Regulations of the Milwaukee Public Library. There is also a set of records dating back to 1869 from the Young Men's Association in the library's Local History Manuscript Collection. To access any of these materials, please give the library a call at 286-3011 to make arrangements.
Now, 136 years later, MPL has 13 locations in the city of Milwaukee. The collection has expanded to over 2 million items that include not just books, but also CDs, DVDs, MP3s, and digital downloads. We are privileged to be a part of Milwaukee's past and look forward to serving Milwaukeeans for many, many more years!
This post is based on the library history information from MPL's website and the books mentioned above.
Submitted by Louise at Central