Walter E. Olson Memorial Library

203 N. Main Street (715) 479-8070

Library History


Timeline of events

pre 1897 (written by Mort Cook, an early resident of Eagle River) - "At one time, prior to the year 1897, Alva G. Richison operated a store in a small building which stood east of the O’Connor building [later housed the First National Bank]. He sold tobacco, candy, and notions.  He also operated the Western Union Telegraph office, the income from which was a big item in his business.  The late Robert Ziebell, then in his teens, worked for him.   [That location] is where he learned telegraphy, which prepared him for a successful railroad career.

At that time, our little town had about 20 saloons.  Mr. Richison, being a religious man, thought that the people, especially the young, should have some other place to go, so he started what he called a “Free Reading Room” in a part of his store.  That, I believe, was Eagle River’s first library.

In a very short time the little building became too crowded, so Mr. Richison moved across the street into a vacant store building.  In addition to Western Union, he secured the agency for the American Express Co.  He also put in a stock of hardware and paint.  In the meantime, Rev. H. C. Todd, pastor of the Congregational Church, took charge of the reading room.

From there on up to recent years, my memory of the library is rather sketchy.  I do remember a fire [in which] the building was destroyed, but the books were saved…I am not sure of the location.

Later, about 1910, some of the townspeople formed a Library Association, took subscriptions, received a cash donation from the town, and sold library cards at $0.50 each, thereby giving the library a new lease on life."

1910 - In or about the year 1910 some of the residents of Eagle River formed a library association and took up subscriptions for the purchase of books.  A small sum was realized by this means, the members purchased cards at 50 cents apiece, and the town board donated one hundred dollars.  The first books purchased were kept in a building which stood on the site of the present First National Bank.  The building subsequently burned down but the books were saved.  Subsequent purchases and donations have since increased the number of books in the library to 915 (June 1, 1923).  

1914 - After the library had been in existence for about four years [1914], the Eagle River Woman's Club took charge of it and has since been the main factor in its support, raising necessary funds by giving entertainment's and taking up collections among the business men.  

1915 (March 6 Club minutes) - Library Standing Committee created by the Eagle River Woman's Club.  (March 20 Club minutes) -  Club voted to sponsor a Public Library.  Many books were donated to the Library.  The Inter Se society, another woman's organization, also helped by donating books.  Inter Le Club donated $40.19 for purchase of new books.

1918 (February 9th Club minutes) - Public Library being housed / maintained in Miss Harriet Richmond's store.  Librarian being paid annual salary of $50.00.

1923 (April 10 Club minutes) - Large part of Club's interest and energy expended on the Library.  A program entitled "Our Library - Its History," presented and its value/suggestions for its future welfare discussed. 

1924 - "The library has been housed at different times in various store buildings.  The custom of charging 50 cents a year for ownership of cards entitling bearer to the privileges of the library, though for some time in abeyance, has been revived.  Mrs. Delia D. Austin has been chairman of the library board and also of the financial committee since the library was started.  Though small at present, the books mostly confined to fiction, the library may be regarded as the nucleus of a future institution that shall have a home of its own and prove an important factor in the educational advancement of the community."  Source: excerpt from "Early Days in Eagle River Wisconsin". Published in History of Lincoln, Oneida, and Vilas Counties Wisconsin. Compiled by George O. Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others. H.C. Cooper Jr. & Co, c1924.

1925 - 1926 (Club minutes) - Ruth Rantz designated librarian with funds being raised by Bake Sales.  From Jan 1 to March 8, 1926, a total of 35 cards were issued from the Library representing 24 families.  Club voted to card-catalog the library and sign up for "Book of the Month Club" subscription. 

1928 (May Club minutes) - Entry indicated that "Mother India" placed in Library but not on shelves. 

1930 (Sept Club minutes) - Club voted to offer four book cases to High School for $50.00 and transfer all books over to the High School Library. 

1932 (March 28 Club minutes) - Club voted to sell bookcases to High School for $30.00. 

1939 (May Club minutes) - A club member reported on the new library sponsored by the Eagle River and Service Clubs. 

1940 (Jan Club minutes) - Club voted to hold a contest to find a name for the new library, the name to be accompanied by a 250 word essay on the merits of the new library.  This will be a County Project. (Feb Club minutes) - A $10.00 book on Art was presented to the Library.  Voted to create a Penny Book Fund to aid in purchasing books for the Library. 

1942 (March Club minutes) - Discussion of the Library plight created by abandonment of the W.P.A. and no funds for the library.  The Club voted to elect a member to the Library Board.  (Sept Club minutes) - Report of the Library Cmmittee indicated that the City Council had consented to have the Library moved to City Hall.  Committee authorized to act with Service Club in hiring Librarian.  (Nov Club minutes)  -report of the Library Committee indicated that the Library has been moved to City Hall and a wire barrier created to enclose it. 

1946 (Dec Club minutes) - Woman's Club donated $100.00 to the City Library 

1948 (Club minutes) - Club voted to donate $100.00 to the Library toward new shelves. (April Club minutes) - Three books on Wisconsin purchased for the Library Conservation Program. 

1949 (Jan Club minutes) - Proceeds from the Flower Show turned over to the Lilbrary Fund. 

1950 (Jan club minutes) - Money from the Flower Show, amounting to $80.00, given to the Library. 

1951 (April club minutes).  Flower Show money turned over to the Library. 

1952 (April club minutes)  Discussion of Book Mobile tabled for the present. 

1955 (Sep 12 Club minutes)  Woman's Club received check for $25.00 from Rotary reflecting Flower Show proceeds and this check endorsed over to the Library Board.  Club voted to hold an Art Exhibit and Tea, which subsequently generated $85.25 for the Library. 

1961 (Jan 9 Club minutes) - Member, Mrs. Thomas, appointed to Library Board as representative of the Women's club. 

1962 (Jan Club minutes) - new quarters for the Library discussed.  City Council voted $1500.00 to fix up area down stairs.  There will be a new front, windows in back of building, new floor and painted walls. 

1963 (April 8 Club minutes) - Books bought with proceeds from Antique Show, co-sponsored by Rotary Club, listed. 

1964 (Feb 24 Club minutes) - Proceeds from sale of State Calendar, viz., $8.00, donated to purchase children's books. March 30 (Eagle River Library Board Building Committee) posted Bid Notice for the remodelling of the old fire station at the City Hall for use as a library.  Estimated costs from Genisot & Associates are $5,327.00.  The LSCA federal grant awarded $1,500.00 to the Eagle River Public Library Board for construction.  July (WI Public Libraries Survey completed by Board President, John Digert)  Total floor area of library is 900 Sq. Ft., an increase from 700 Sq Ft after remodeling.  Seating capacity of 46 users.  Total book collection is 5,550. 

1965 (March 8 Club minutes) - Report on the new library presented by member Betty Houkes and plans detailed for extended local library service plus increase of material through Book Mobile.  March 16 (Dedication Remarks of Board President, John Digert)  - "It is significant that we are the first library in Wisconsin to use a construction grant through the new Library Services and Construction Act"   (March 27 Club Minutes) - Announcement of opening of new Library on March 27th in association with a Club tea from 2-4 PM.   

1970 (excerpt from typewritten notes) - "First formed as a paying library in 1925.  Present Library employs 1 full time librarian and 1 part-time librarian, has a Board of 8.  There are approximately 9,000 volumes in the Library.  It is also serviced by the Multi-Library sysem from Ashland and by the Wisconsin Valley Reference Service Library.  Circulation for 1970 was 19,804. 

1972 - On January 11, Board President, John Digert, reports at a quarterly Board meeting the library is a Duly Constituted Library, classified as a type 3 library with no more than 7 members on the Library Board. At a July 13th board meeting, Board passed a motion accepting the Constitution of Eagle River Joint Library board of Trustees (Sec. 43 - Laws 71) as written by John Digert.  At this meeting plans for future expansion of the Library were discussed. 

1976 (Oct 14 Special Board Meeting).  Motion passed to assess at the rate of .ooo13, which would bring in $1.30 on each $10,000 of equalized valuation of the towns (Lincoln, Cloverland, and Washington) and the city of Eagle River. 

1977  (Board meeting) - Library circulation was 36,008 volumes.  May 18 (Library Board meeting) - Arno Wehle, Board President, read a letter from Miss Pelz, president of the Walter E. Olson Foundation (Williamette, IL), announcing that the Olson Grant for construction of a new building will be $350,000.00.  

1979 (account authored by Diana Bloom Anderson) -  "The library was moved into the second floor of the old City Hall building on Division Street during World War II, subsequently relocating downstairs as its collection expanded.  Eventually, it outgrew that location and a new library was built in 1979 on two lots at the corner of Main and Spruce Streets. It officially opened in 1980 as the Walter E. Olson Memorial Library.  Mr. Olson was the founder and owner of Olson Rug Company in Chicago; he owned property in the St. Germain area on Big St. Germain Lake and Moon Lake.  His Foundation sold the property after his death; the Library was one of the beneficiaries of the proceeds."  July 11, 1979 (Summary of Bids) - General work for 6,500 sq ft of construction is awarded to Teschendorf & Shrock, Inc $224,824.00.  Groundbreaking date is July 25 at 11:30 AM.

1980 - Project description - Total cost of construction project is $468,722.00.    Architect is Leonard Reinke of Reinke, Hansche, Last, Inc. located in Oshkosh, WI.  July 10 Library Dedication and Open House.  Project completion date September 1.

1995 - Library participates in BadgerDial consortium.

2014 to current - The library is one of 30 library members of the Northern Waters Library Service (NWLS), a system serving eight northern Wisconsin counties. Member libraries formed the Merlin Integrated Library Service Consortium and share resources available for patrons to browse and request from the Merlin library catalog.


Library Directors

  Library Director Organization Location
1897  

Alva G. Richison, Store Owner 

Free Reading Room located in a small building which stood east of the O’Connor building [later housed the First National Bank]

1918 unknown.  Annual Salary is $50.00 Public Library sponsored by Eagle River Women's Club.  Chairman of the Board is Mrs. Delia E. Austin.

Public Library being housed / maintained in Miss Harriet Richmond's store.

1923      
 1925 - ? Ruth M. Rantz Bliss    
1939   Public library sponsored by Eagle River and Service Clubs  
1942   Public library sponsored by both Service Clubs and Women's Club. Eagle River City Council consents to having the library moved to City Hall.
 ?1964 - Feb 1971 Florence Lyons   In 1965, expansion project completed to increase library from 700 to 900 sq. ft.
 March 1971 - 199? Roberta Prange Joint Library of 4 municipalities established in 1972.  Supported by Towns of Lincoln, Cloverland, Washington and the City of Eagle River. In 1980 Library moves to corner of Main and Spruce Streets.  Major benefactor is the Foundation (Walter E. Olson) located in Willamette, IL.
 ? - 1993 Vicki Ahlswede    
 1993 - June 2014 Diana Anderson Joint Library of 7 municipalities.  Supported by Towns of Lincoln, Cloverland, Washington, St. Germain, Conover and Arbor Vitae and the City of Eagle River.  
 July 2014 - Current Nan Andrews Joint Library of 6 municipalities.  Supported by Towns of Lincoln, Cloverland, Washington, St. Germain, Conover and and the City of Eagle River.  

 

 



Olson Memorial Library · 203 N. Main St. · P.O. Box 69 · Eagle River, WI 54521 · Phone 715-479-8070 ·Fax 715-479-2435