One Hundred Years of Progress: 1890 - 1990
Dwight Foster Public Library
Fort Atkinson Wisconsin
The following is a history of the Dwight Foster Public Library written by local resident Bill Starke in honor of the library's centennial.
Part 3: 1970 to 1980
Library Closed For Remodeling
In June 1970, the library was closed for remodeling. New carpeting was installed and new book stacks were added. Other additions were new lighting, new record case, new study tables and chairs, new readers' guide table, new newspaper rack, new magazine stand, new card catalog and new atlas stand. The library reopened on August 21, 1970.
Lorine Niedecker, "the poet's poetess," a lifelong resident of Fort Atkinson, died December 31, 1970, at the age of 67. She had worked in the library from 1928 to 1930. Her husband, Albert Millen, presented her private collection of books, some of which were personally autographed by authors, to the library.
Although Lorine was not well know in this area, preferring to live in self-imposed privacy, the English poet, Basil Bunting, once called her "the best living poetess," and Jonathan Williams, her British publisher, called her "the most absolute poetess since Emily Dickinson."
Irene Metke Retires
After 38 years as head librarian, Mrs. Oscar Metke retired on January 1, 1974. She was a native of Greenwood and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She served as librarian in Neillsville for 3 1/2 years before becoming head librarian in Fort Atkinson on January 1, 1936.
During her long service with the city, Mrs. Metke displayed many fine traits. One of them was speaking up for what she thought was right. She did just that with her approaching retirement, pointing out that one of the major frustrations of the library staff had been that the library had been expanded to the limits of the present building. She added, pointedly, that the library property included another 60 feet to the south, "but for 20 years nothing has been done to utilize them."
Mrs. Mary Gates replaced Mrs. Metke as head librarian January 1, 1974. She had been employed as library aide in the Fort High School and also part-time at the public library for six years. She received her masters degree in library science in 1974.
The years rolled on and the library continued to serve our city with a wealth of information, 35,000 volumes, an extensive record and cassette collection, 38 framed pictures for loan, 150 current periodicals, magazines and newspapers. It was truly providing the community with an outstanding education-recreation facility.
Library Joins Interlibrary Loan Service
By 1977 the library was affiliated with the interlibrary loan service of the Wisconsin Reference and Loan System. By belonging to this cooperative system, the number of volumes available to a local reader increased tremendously.
On April 2-6, 1979, the library celebrated National Library Week and the staff was featured in an article in the Daily Jefferson County Union. Mary Gates was head librarian, Catherine "Miss Kate" Oesterrich, was children's librarian, Shirley Haferman and Carol Bonnett were desk assistants, Gloria Southworth and Connie Green were part-time assistants and Margaret "Midge" Bull was a substitute. There were also two student pages, Sue Weh and Pat Ackerman.
Members of the board that year were Margaret Waterman, president, Jane Knox, secretary, Maxine Meyer, Alan Jones, Jr., James Schafer, William Rogers, Roland Hunsader, Robert Martin and Mary Gates, ex-officio.
"Friends of Library" Group Formed
A new organization was founded on October 23, 1979, when Maxine Meyer, Valerie Kerschensteiner, Elizabeth Seybold and Barbara Starke established the "Friends of the Dwight Foster Public Library." The first officers were Barbara Starke, president, Joanne Moon, vice-president, Liz Seybold, secretary and Kathy Gross, treasurer.
The goals of the "Friends" were to present the needs of the library to the community, to develop an interest in library projects and programs, to stimulate gifts and bequests to the library, to deliver books to shut-ins, to set up educational exhibits at the library, and to help with special activities as requested by the board.
On January 1, 1980, the library joined the Mid-Wisconsin Federated Library System composed of Jefferson, Dodge and Fond du lac counties. This meant the resources of all three counties, consisting of 24 separate libraries, would now be available through the patron's library card. New services began to flow into the county, including the services of a book van which traveled between the libraries of the three counties bringing books, films and other materials from one library to another whose patrons had requested them.
Earlier in 1979, the county's eight libraries had formed themselves into a countywide service called the Jefferson County Library Services available equally to rural and urban patrons with the blessing of the county board of supervisors. Dwight Foster library was selected the Resource Library for Jefferson County. In November, 1980, Cambridge was added to the county system.
More rural patrons began taking out library cards as county tax support, through the county budget, replace the patchwork payments formerly made in behalf of rural users by township governments or by patrons themselves. It was now possible for a card holder to use any library in the county or any library in the Mid-Wisconsin System.
With Cambridge, which was a member of the South Central System, now added to the Jefferson County System, an agreement was worked out whereby Fort's library now also had access to the South Central System that included Dane, Sauk, Green and Columbia counties. This meant that Dane county libraries, including Madison Public Library, together with nineteen other counties, were now open to Jefferson county residents.
By 1981, all these improved services began to strain the ability of the Dwight Foster Library to cope with the increased workload. The library had been bursting at the seams just from increased local patronage. Now the pressure was increased because of the new county and area library systems which made the library even more appealing and useful to areawide patrons.
Continue: The library from 1980 to 1990
Back to: The library from 1929 to 1970
Back to: The library from 1890 to 1929