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Visiting the library – take a trip to milwaukee

July 7, 2008

Some people are guilty of taking the simple pleasures in life for granted. I am as guilty as the next person. One thing I do not take for granted, however, is my library. My library is a living, breathing thing; my dear friend. On this perfect, rainy day, I have to share the pleasures with you, as a kind of thank you to my friend.

The Milwaukee Public Library system has a central library which is located downtown, and twelve branch libraries across the city. I have been to most of them, but “my” library is the Central Library. It has a long history. In 1847, the Young Men’s Association rented space in various locations for their subscription library, and they collected dues from their members. They also sponsored a lecture series, with speakers as well known as Horace Mann, Horace Greeley, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In 1878 the State Legislature authorized the city to establish a public library. This entity took over the Association’s location and their collection of 10,000 volumes, many of which were written in German. In 1898, a national competition was held to choose a design for a building that would house the library and the museum. The winning design, by Ferry & Clas of Milwaukee, was a combination of French and Italian renaissance, called Neo-renaissance.

The museum and the library companionably shared this space until the mid-60’s when the museum built their own building on the next street over. There is a much more complete history of the library on its website, if you are so inclined to learn more.

Author and National Public Radio book commentator Nancy Pearl named Milwaukee Public Library’s Central Library as one of her favorite public libraries in the United States. Her comments posted to the USA Today website on March 6, 2008:

Two things that make a visit here most unforgettable are the grand staircase and the domed rotunda that separates the building’s east and west wings. The library has all the bells and whistles that today’s modern users expect, yet it still gives the impression of being a cherished old friend.

That’s it, exactly. A cherished old friend. Last Thursday I yelled to my kids as I was heading out the door, “I’m going to the library. I’ll be home in an hour.” My daughter shouted from her room upstairs, “Mom, you were just there on Monday. What the heck?” I said, defensively, “So?” and went on my cheerful way, looking forward to the coming adventure. Look at the slide show, and you will see what I mean.

This is a library that houses a rare book collection, a local history and research room, an Art, Music and Recreation Department, a huge children’s collection, a Business, Technology and Periodicals Area, computer classes, and Ready Reference. The list goes on and on, but you get the picture now. The Creme de la creme – librarians so ready and willing to help you, you’ll think you died and went to heaven!

Milwaukee has so much to offer its residents, as well as visitors. If you are ever in town, don’t limit your visit to Summerfest or the lovely Art Museum. Stop at the Central Library, too.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2008 9:58 pm

    I do so love posts about libraries. This one in particular looks gorgeous. It is so true that we don’t often take pleasure in the simple things, at least as much as we should, but I love those moments of clarity when one of the ‘simple things’ does indeed bring pleasure…and library visits certainly count. I was guilty of not visiting the library at all last year and one of my personal goals for 2008 was to use the library more. I have since went almost every month and have read several library books this year thus far…saving money in the process as well as supporting my local libraries. There is something so special about libraries that, at least for me, give me a sense of nostalgia because of my childhood fondness for them. Thank you so much for posting this, it was a real pleasure to read.

  2. July 7, 2008 10:30 pm

    boy, I could spend several days in this place! Especially the rare book room! I’d be there everyday if I were you! Wonderful post!

  3. July 7, 2008 11:35 pm

    Hi Carl. I would love it if I could support authors everywhere and buy all, most, some of the books I read, but, alas, this is not the case. I figure libraries have to buy their books, so that is the best I can do for the most part.
    This is, indeed, a marvelous library. The collections are vast, and I always come home with things I wasn’t even looking for.
    I also have many fond memories of libraries from childhood, so I am glad this sparked a moment of “simple pleasure” for you.

    Thanks, Pamela. There are many wonderful spots to sink into, in this library. Sometimes I just sit on the floor between the stacks. I am about to leave, at this very moment, for the library. Who knows what treasures I will come home with!

  4. July 8, 2008 1:36 pm

    What a wonderful looking library, and a delightful tribute to it. I wish I were as fond of my own library, which is undeniably well-stocked but rather ugly!

  5. July 9, 2008 1:16 am

    It’s a beaut, isn’t it!? Oh well, at least your library is well-stocked…. things could be worse. I do realize how lucky I am.
    I had a lovely library as a teenager, too. I lived in a small town, and the library was in a very large, cottage style house. Leaded glass windows, fireplaces, beautiful woodwork. Ahhhhhhh. Fond memories.
    Thanks for dropping in today, litlove. I know you are on a hiatus. I hope all is well.

  6. Derek permalink
    July 12, 2008 8:00 am

    As a fellow Milwaukee native, I share your passion for our beautiful library. I have very fond memories of going there with my mom as a kid and spending hours in their superb children’s section.

  7. July 12, 2008 8:18 am

    Hi Derek, I am glad that a fellow Milwaukeen doesn’t take our Central Library for granted. I hope you have a chance to go back as an adult, so you can have some more fond memories!

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