The first public library in Wisconsin: Black River Falls Library celebrates 150th anniversary

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — 150 years ago, Wisconsin passed a law creating what’s now known as public libraries. Black River Falls became the first community in the state of Wisconsin to open one.

Inside the walls of a library, stories come alive.

“I just had so many good memories,” Black River Falls resident Joan Zenz said.

For the community of Black River Falls, the biggest story in the library is about the library.

“That says it all,” Jackson County historian Mary Woods said.

In 1872, Wisconsin passed a bill stating libraries would be established by a body of government, be free, and financially supported by taxes.

“As a result of that, Black River Falls was the first library that applied for that status,” Woods said.

When that status was approved, Black River Falls officially became home to the first public library in the state.

“This public library is one of the number one benefits of living in Jackson County,” Woods said.

Zenz has been a member of the Black River Falls community for more than 40 years.

“Probably used the library for almost of those years,” Zenz said.

Over the years, the library grew.

“I remember first going and they had a little kids section,” Zenz said.

In 1995, the library moved into its current building in downtown.

“Now being able to help sponsor those as an adult and make sure those kind of things still happen is just very exciting,” Zenz said.

On Sunday, the library will celebrate it’s 150th year.

“So, there’s just been progress ever since,” Woods said.

Woods says libraries are home to everyone.

“Children’s area, the adults, the teenage area books, the history room. I hope they come in here and leave with what they want to find,” she said.

Woods believes libraries will always be a part of their community.

“People like to look at a book, they want the feel of a book. Someone said you ever notice how good a new book smells?” Woods said.

On Sunday, Nov. 6, there will be a celebration at the Black River Falls Public library with stories and snacks. The program is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.