The "Traveling Libraries" program in Wisconsin, 1897

Free Traveling Libraries in Wisconsin: the story of their growth, purposes, and development, with accounts of a few kindred movements

Progressive Era officials considered education crucial to the success of democracy, so they started government programs to increase literacy and expand knowledge among the state's varied ethnic and geographic communities. Although many cities had libraries by the end of the 19th century, most farm families had little if any access to books. In 1895, officials created the Wisconsin Free Library Commission to try to remedy this problem. Since rural residents could not travel to libraries, they decided to send "traveling libraries" into the countryside. This pamphlet explains the program's purposes and describes its activities. The traveling library system was successful largely due to the efforts of its administrator, Lutie Stearns (1866-1943); its history is described in "A Thousand Little Libraries" by Stuart Stotts (Wisconsin Magazine of History, Winter 2006-2007).

Related Topics: The Progressive Era
Progressivism and the Wisconsin Idea
Creator: Wisconsin Free Library Commission
Pub Data: Madison, Wis.: The Commission, 1897; from a copy in the Wisconsin Historical Society Library, Call Number WI LIB. 2: T 72/ 1897
Citation: Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Free Traveling Libraries in Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.: The Commission, 1897) Online facsimile at:; Visited on: 12/7/2021