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Main Street Public Library

Community Places and Reading Spaces in the Rural Heartland, 1876–1956

Wayne A. Wiegand

Publication Year: 2011

In Main Street Public Library, eminent library historian Wayne Wiegand studies four emblematic small-town libraries in the Midwest from the late nineteenth century through the federal Library Service Act of 1956, and shows that these institutions served a much different purpose than is so often perceived. Rather than acting as neutral institutions that are vital to democracy, the libraries of Sauk Centre, Minnesota; Osage, Iowa; Rhinelander, Wisconsin; and Lexington, Michigan, were actually mediating community literary values and providing a public space for the construction of social harmony. These libraries, and the librarians who ran them, were often just as susceptible to the political and social pressures of their time as any other public institution.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. vii

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Acknowledgments and Permissions

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pp. ix-xi

This project has been a long time coming, and I owe great debts of gratitude to scores of people and libraries over the years. My thanks to Jane Robbins, Louise Robbins, and Doug Zweizig (the first two are former directors of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Library and Information Studies), who supported me in numerous ways while I taught there, ...

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Introduction: Information, Reading, Place

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pp. 1-10

As of this writing, the United States has more public libraries than McDonald’s restaurants. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, two-thirds of Americans annually visited a public library at least once, and two of three were registered borrowers. These statistics state the obvious. The American public library is a heavily used and ...

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One: Pride of a Century: The Bryant Library of Sauk Centre, Minnesota

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pp. 11-46

In 1856 — two years before Minnesota became a state — New England settlers founded a town ninety miles west of Minneapolis. They named it Sauk Centre after the nearby Sauk River and Sauk Lake. As in hundreds of other mid-nineteenth-century Midwest towns, settlers quickly set up businesses and attempted to replicate social institutions ...

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Two: A Credit to the Place: The Sage Public Library of Osage, Iowa

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pp. 47-76

On January 9, 1871, seven prominent men of Osage, Iowa, gathered at the Center School House “to establish a Library of general reading matter suitable for persons of all occupations and professions.” To raise money, members pledged that capital stock should “not be less than 100 shares nor more than 500 shares of $5.00 each.” An ...

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Three: Tourist Attraction: The Charles H. Moore Library of Lexington, Michigan

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pp. 77-92

As the first settlement on the Lake Huron shore north of Port Huron, Michigan, Lexington Township was organized in 1837. At the time Sanilac County was covered with forest; much of the interior was swampland.1 In 1846 the village opened its first sawmill; shortly thereafter, lumber products were loaded onto sailing vessels called “hookers” ...

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Four: Those Commission Ideas: The Rhinelander Public Library of Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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pp. 93-132

On February 9, 1898, citizens of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, gathered at the courthouse to hear Lutie Stearns of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) speak about the value of public libraries. Stearns’s visit was sponsored by the Rhinelander Women’s Club (RWC). “This is a start in the right direction,” said the Rhinelander Herald. ...

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Five: Literature Suitable for a Small Public Library: Main Street Public Library Collections

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pp. 133-172

The cultural politics of public libraries are written in the collections they acquire. To evaluate those politics, I created a database of the entire inventory of the four midwestern libraries described in this book, based on bibliographic information systematically entered into accessions books through 1970. As previous chapters show, ...

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Epilogue: Agent of Social Harmony

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pp. 173-186

Last year some members of the Iowa Library Association were promoting the passage of the Library Services bill (S. 1452), which proposed to match Federal with State funds for the promotion and benefit of libraries,” Sage Library trustee W. L. Calloway wrote to his congressman January 25, 1952. “I expressed my opposition to the bill at the ...


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pp. 187-222


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pp. 223-238


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pp. 239-244

E-ISBN-13: 9781609380687
E-ISBN-10: 1609380681
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609380670
Print-ISBN-10: 1609380673

Page Count: 284
Illustrations: 4 photos
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: first