Dexheimer, Florence Chambers, 1866-1925 / Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women
West, Georgia A.
Mary Ann Olcott, pp. 11-13 PDF (617.2 KB)
In 1870 and 1871 Miss Olcott assisted her sister in managing a library which had been started by a stock company two years previously. It had run out of funds and the books had been moved to a room in the office of Judge Cleveland which he had offered free of rent. How to keep the library open without funds was a problem but in 1872 Miss Olcott took entire charge of the library and in various ways she kept it going raising a little money through monthly fees and book rentals till in 1875 it was burned with the whole business section of Oshkosh. Everyone was lamenting the library when it was found Miss Olcott through her wonderful foresightedness had insured the books for $1300 the previous year. Miss Olcott invested the whole sum in books and opened the library at her home. She maintained it there for three months, then moved it first to one store build- ing then another, till she was finally allowed to place it in a room in the post office building. Here it remained till 1891 during which period Miss Olcott paid the rent from revenues received from book rentals, bought coal, wood, and gas and was her own janitor. Miss Olcott mothered the library as she would a child, it seemed her one ambition to keep the library open and to keep im- proving it. She served the public faithfully, was sup- posed to receive a monthly salary of $10 but for four years of that time she did not receive anything. When she was obliged to move from the post office building Miss Olcott packed the books and stored them for five years. In 1896 she was given a space in the City Hall and opened a free library which she maintained till 1900. Miss Olcott was the sole librarian from 1872 till 1900, twenty-eight years. Then as the result of her efforts a library building was built. She had persuaded Mr. and Mrs. Harris, well-to-do people of Oshkosh, to bequeath their property to the city for a library. This they were willing to do as their daughter who had recently died had taken so much pleasure in Miss Olcott's library. The $75,000 which they left was to be increased by an equal 12
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