"[History is] a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man." -Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thursday, September 30, 2010

the logging era

Settlers began logging in the Manitowish Waters area back in 1892. Until 1905, the logs were transported to lumber mills in the Eau Claire area via the vast web of river systems. In winter, the logs were moved to the water ways on large sleighs pulled by horses, and later by steam tractors.
an old postcard showing the horse-drawn logging operation
The Manitowish Waters dam was built in 1892 to facilitate log transport by raising the lakes' water levels. This is a surprisingly utilitarian fact given that "the Chain" now provides little benefit to Excell Energy, which owns the dam.

Side wheel steam boats moved log rafts from the headwaters of the Manitowish Waters chain to the dam. Many companies used the river system and it was necessary to identify each log with a company's registered mark. The ends of the logs were marked with log hammers.

The hammers made a distinctive imprint. Paul Brenner found a log in Rest Lake, in 1982, which he recognized as having been cut by the Chippewa Log and Boom Company of Chippewa Falls, WI. The mark was registered on October 2, 1902. The company camp was located just below the dam, behind the present day Pea Patch restaurant.

The present blog writer's great-grandparents arrived in the area to take advantage of the logging opportunities and worked, as so many others did, in a logging camp. Their old axes and saws are proudly displayed in our home, which was once theirs.

This post serves as a brief introduction to our (much more detailed) interview with... *da da da dum* Paul Brenner. Coming up next, folks!

Friday, September 24, 2010

lift high the roofbeam, carpenters -- the library opens

The Koller Library opened on June 22, 1987. Although Pauline and her volunteers did not even enter the building until the beginning of May, they managed to open the library in under six weeks. "That shows the effort of all those volunteers," Pauline reminisces. "I really can't remember all the things that happened that day. We were busy right from the beginning. Of course, we had to register borrowers because we had none. ... Right away people started signing out books. [The library] was used from the very first day."

Dr. Singer asks what the library's goals were, other than the obvious.

"We were really working in the blind," Pauline answers:

After the fiasco of being refused and everything we didn't know where we were headed.  We often wondered what in the world were we going to have, as a board.  And at the same time we were aiming at the point that we figured that we were going to be accepted.

"Did you feel there might be hostility?"

We didn't know, it's pretty hard to tell, because we had some very adamant people [who said] they were not going to have a library, and they were not going to support one.  And so we really didn't know where we were headed but we just went ahead and did everything we could to win over everybody we could.

By Sunday, July 19, 1987, we were ready for a formal dedication of the library. Erv Teichmiller was the master of ceremonies, and Tom Schroeder was the soloist.  The program was held out on the lawn.  There were about seventy‑five people there.  It was a nice sunny, warm day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the library: child friendly

Marie Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun, self-portrait with her daughter

Pauline reminds us that the library has been open to children from the start: "We have a children's room," she informs Dr. Singer.

"A whole room for them!" Dr. Singer exlaims.

"Yes," Pauline boasts, "and we have board books for little tiny babies. We've even issued prenatal cards."

"Oh, no!"

"Someone [asked] how old do you have to be to get a card? We had library books given along with shower gifts--"

"What a neat idea!"

"--so somebody asked if we issue prenatal cards."

"Was that your idea?"

Pauline answers modestly, "Somebody asked if they could do it, and I said I don't know any reason why they can't."

She goes on to say,

A lot of libraries don't allow children to take anything out ... until they can sign their own names. I think that it's important for toddlers to know that they have their own cards. They are very proud of the fact that they have a library card. I think they should be able to take a card whether or not they can write their own names. So our form is made out in such a way that the parents must sign the responsibility for teh books because those toddler's can't be responsible. The parents have to be responsible.

Dr. Singer asks what portion of library books are devoted to juveniles versus adults.

Oh, about three quarters would be adult. It's still pretty much that way. We have a children's room and we put stuff in there from toddler up through fifth and sixth grade. It's pretty hard to know exactly where the shift is. Then from there on we have a section in the main library called Young Adult. ... It depends on their reading level. Mostly fifth and sixth graders would still find material in the children's room or they might find it in the young adult section and go back and forth. The younger children are of course all in the children's room. We have mats on the floor, a little table and little chairs donated by Pete and Sue Rasey. We have art work in there which was done by Maren Moll and donated to the library.

 And the most important thing that the library has given back to the community over the years?

Unhesitating, Pauline says, "The availability of material for children, because the library habit is formed when children are small. If they don't ever go to the public library as little kids they're not going to go to the library as older people. We've had story hours ever since we started. We have had anywhere from fifteen to forty and forty-five kids at story hour."

She goes on to describe story hour--
We run it during the summer time when we have a lot of visitors [in the northern Wisconsin area]. They look for a place to come with their children. We usuall do a story and some kind of craft. .... When I was still the librarian, we had some of the teachers and one parent who took a class at Nicolet College on storytelling, who took over the storytelling. I simply did not have time setting up everything to take over storytelling. Storytelling is time consuming because it takes preparation. We were very fortunate in having one of the teachers and then later a parent. Now that we have a new librarian [Janelle Kohl], she does the story hour.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

how to populate a small town library, with pauline

Today, folks, we bring you more from the indefagitable Dr. Singer's interview with Pauline Zeber. Ever wondered how to begin your own small town library? Where do you start when you start from scratch? Ever asked yourself, why does the Manitowish Waters Library have this? .... Wonder no more!

Now we can guess not only at the origins of all those Nora Roberts tomes, but The Rise and Fall of the Habsburg Empire, too.*

Pauline begins by describing how she began to acquire library materials.

We made a wish list, explained to the people the things that we needed.  Sue Rasey was a representative of the future Friends of the Library, and she sent letters out to people indicating the things that we needed in the library.  We got money and used books. We got art work, an oak table, chairs -- all kinds of things.  And we got contributions for specific items -- we have an area around one of those picture windows with a loveseat, chairs and table. Donations were made for that.  For the shelving, we had no shelves on the walls, and donations were made from the Lions Club and the Lioness and so forth.  The Madams and Sirs at the Presbyterian Church gave money to buy chairs and so forth.  So the initial expense that would have gone to the town was all covered by donations of people who gave to the library.

Can you tell me when you go about starting a library how do you decide what books to put in it?
Well, that's the point of a trained librarian. When I first started, I attended programs at other groups and I use to give a little pretest to ask what do you like to read. Community groups, community relations.  You want to do this to involve people in the library and to do that I went out and did four or five different programs. Some of them gave us money.  But this is part of the talking about the book selections -- the course in itself in library training is book selection. The first thing you learn is to know your public, what kind of things they are interested in.  And all the time we were putting things together and people were coming into the library, no matter how busy I was, I stopped to talked to these people.  I questioned their interests. I explained what we were trying to do. I took them on a tour of the library.  This all is good PR.  That's the advantage of having a trained librarian.

To me, the smaller the community the more you know how you have to have to make what you have go farther and I think that's important.  In the regulations for a small town, you don't need somebody highly trained.  In Wisconsin, up to this point, they're changing it now, but they had four grades of librarian.  The Fourth Grade was for small communities.  The only requirements were a high school education and workshop trainings.  You learn systems of checking out books and so forth but all that other stuff that goes with a library you didn't really get into.  They mention it at workshops but not enough to train you in it.  Where when you have training to be a librarian for a degree in library you take numerous courses in selection and curriculum enrichment, and how do you find material in all these different areas, how do you know your public, and you are taught all of that in library class.   You take courses in library management and reference work and all of those kinds of courses.  Which all helps. You see I had a Grade One, in other words I could have applied to Milwaukee for a job because I have a Masters Degree in Library Science.

That was a real gift that you gave to the community.
It helped out, I'm sure.  When we first started out we had little idea of what it would grow into.  I had visited the library in Winchester, I had visited the library in Land O Lakes and they were very small.  I never visited Mercer but I understood it was very small.  I was hoping we could go beyond that.  Especially with the building we had.

Our first concern was what were we going to put on the shelves.

What [books] did you have when you opened?
We put out a call for used books.  Everybody laughed at me ­– they said all you're going to get are Readers Digest Condensed books.  Well, we did get about eight boxes of those, but in addition to that we must have gotten several hundred boxes of good books.  People went through their things and just weeded out their own libraries.  We got a lot of classics, we got a lot of modern up to date novels, we got history books, we got science books. We had a good coverage by the time we got through.

At some point you had to put in an order for books.
Yes, I ordered at that time. I ordered mostly best seller fiction.  Because we had here mostly adult readers -- although we're very pleased with our children's section -- but the basic circulation is adult material. And so we bought those and things that people look for in libraries that we didn't have covered.

How many books did you order the first year?
The first year we maybe bought a thousand books.  Not all from town money we had gift money too.  For periodicals, the Cerny Foundation bought our newspapers for us. They bought the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune and the Milwaukee Journal.

What is the Cerny Foundation?
The Cernys were summer people here.  They originally came from Ironwood or Hurley and then they were summer people here and lived in Minneapolis.  When he passed away, that foundation gave us money to pay for the subscriptions to newspapers in his memory.

Does that continue to this day?
No, they did that for three years, so we got started that way. Then they gave a big grant for the playground equipment at the playground so they have continued to make contributions to the community and the library was one of them.

Once we moved in we got our shelving and we had the volunteers all busy.  We had all these boxes.  Our community room was filled with boxes of books. Our amount of volunteers varied. People came as they had time when we were getting ready to open.

So you had pretty good community support?
Very good community support. The men helped put the shelves on the walls and they helped fill them as we cataloged.  I would show them, I shelved and the next day they came, I'd tell them  now move those over here.  A man said I moved those yesterday.  I said yes and you'll probably move them somewhere else. That's what librarians do -- they move books from place to place. 

We didn't know just exactly what we needed for space and that's where we felt, you put it where you think you're going to have it and then you start adjusting back and forth so that you can fit in what you have.

Were you basing this on the Dewey Decimal System?
I cataloged the books.  We had women typing the pockets.  In the evening, kids, for instance the Byram children, we had kids around a circle on the floor pasting pockets and then they could stamp the ownership stamps on those. You put an ownership stamp on the book that says the name of the library so you can identify every book.  They would stamp those.  The parents were putting the numbers on the spine of the books.  So we would have whole families come.
Stay tuned for the next installation of Pauline's interview!
*Checked out in recent memory only by Callie Bates. The Habsburgs, that is. Nora is still going strong without any help from me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interview with Pauline Zeber

We'll kick off our first post with some history on how our library came to be. The following is excerpted from an interview with Pauline Zeber, the first director of the Frank B. Koller Memorial Library. The interview was conducted by Dr. Margaret Singer of Rhinelander, WI, on April 28, 1994.*

Mrs. Zeber, would you want to tell us about yourself a little bit first?
I was born in Bessemer, Michigan, and graduated from high school in Bessemer. I attended Gogebic Community College and the University of Michigan. That's where I got my Bachelors Degree. After I attended the University of Michigan I worked for five years as a meteorologist for the United States Weather Bureau in Cleveland, Ohio.  And then I went back to Bessemer.  The superintendent of schools came in and talked to me one day and said that if I was to go to Western Michigan University and take library classes, then I had a job at the school in the fall.  So I went and I eventually got my Masters in Library Science at Western Michigan University.  I was a high school librarian in Bessemer for thirty years.

Then I retired and in 1985 I came [to Manitowish Waters] to take care of my new grandson because his mom and dad both worked. ... I have been here ever since.

We have a little outline here. You list on April 9,1985 that a town committee was appointed. Do you want to take it from there and tell me about that?
At a regular annual town meeting on April 9, 1985, a committee was created and their charge was to look into a library.  The committee consisted of Reverend Hall, the chairman, Ellen Townsend, Betty Skrobot and Toby Hyland.  They decided that the charge involved a recommendation concerning the establishment and construction of a library.  On August 27, 1985, the committee recommended that a library, a new building, be built on the present site and that the Kollers had offered to help pay for the construction of that new library.

Frank and Betty Koller, of Manitowish Waters, owned Koller's Cranberry Company and Koller's Realty. They still live in the area. (ed.)

Do you know why the Kollers wanted to donate money to the library?
Betty told me that they came here with virtually nothing and that through hard work and so forth, this community helped them build what they had. They wanted to pay back to the community for what they earned here.  They worked very, very hard for what they have.  They had one son and the library has been named in his memory.

welcome to the history of manitowish waters blog

Welcome! The staff of the Manitowish Waters Library has begun this blog in an effort to record the history of Manitowish Waters, WI, through the personal recollections of various individuals. Our "purview" scrolls back through the last hundred years or so, collected in the memories of living people, focusing on the development of resorts and settlements in the "North Country."

While we make every effort to be factual, we can only be as correct as the people we interview! Please be understanding; we always welcome more information.

Our enterprising library staff will, from time to time, post videos and other goodies on the blog. We'll keep you posted, as it were...