University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / Wisconsin women, graduate school, and the professions

Fenster, Valmai
Chapter 3: Women's contributions to the library school: 1895-1939,   pp. 21-27 ff.

Page 21

3. Women's Contributions to the
Library School: 1895-1939
by Valmai Fenster
In 1895 the University of Wisconsin-Madison inaugurated a summer
course for library workers which became the basis for the full-time library
school that was founded in 1906.1 This school provided important oppor-
tunities for Wisconsin women because it opened librarianship as a field of
professional endeavor during a period when very few other professions
welcomed their membership. Indeed, between 1895-1939, over ninety-six
percent of the students were women. Their contributions were a significant
factor in the establishment and development of Wisconsin's library services,
since the Free Library Commission, which administered the school during this
time, used the program for library development throughout the state.
During the final decade of the nineteenth century, library development in
Wisconsin was hindered because of the lack of trained librarians. The state's
small rural institutions relied on ser'ice from local women who were often
untrained in library management. The nearest full-time library school was
the Armour Institute in Chicago, but it was expensive and many women could
not afford the time or the money required to complete such a course. In 1895
a summer school was begun in Madison to train library workers. By 1905,
384 students, over ninety-five percent of whom were women, had attended
the school.3 Its influence had reached far beyond the boundaries of Wisconsin,
since forty-five percent of the students came from elsewhere in the United.
This summer program was not considered the equivalent of the full-time
schools, for it offered only a six-week course in library methods.4 Under
direction of Katharine L. Sharp (a young protege of Melvil Dewey) and Cor-
nelia Marvin, her former student, the school trained workers to improve the
organization of Wisconsin's small public and school libraries. Anna McDonnell
of the Kellogg Public Library, Green Bay, remarked of her 1896 training that
it filled up and rounded out her knowledge.5
So successful were the results of this summer school that, in 1905, Sena-
tor J. H. Stout introduced a bill in the legislature which brought an appropria-
tion to the Free Library Commission for the establishment of a full-time
school. Founded in 1906, this was the ninth library school in the nation.
professed object of its program was to prepare librarians for general service,
but the Commission's primary aim was to train students for the competent
organization and administration of the state's small public libraries, most
which contained between four and eight -thousand volumes.6 Although the
school gave preference to Wisconsin applicants, when vacancies occurred,
students were often accepted from other states. In the years before World
War II, the latter group represented 56 percent of all students. Mary Emogene
Hazeltine, a graduate of Wellesley and a distinguished public librarian from
Jamestown, New York, was appointed to head the new school.
By 1909 a joint course with the university was established whereby stu-
dents might take the school's program in their senior year and credit it

Go up to Top of Page