The Delafield Public Library began as a shelf of books in the Town of Delafield Post Office at the northeastern corner of Milwaukee and Genesee Streets. It was completely funded by private fundraisers and donations, run by unpaid volunteers, and operated without any government monies. In 1906 (the City of Delafield was yet to incorporate), the Town of Delafield adopted a resolution to establish a “free library.” The next year, an unpaid librarian was established along with a library board. Over the decades, the Delafield Public Library has moved around downtown Delafield, never more than a few blocks. It has since grown in every way, evolving to meet the needs of the greater Delafield community.
The original library at the northeastern corner of Milwaukee and Genesee Streets (photo courtesy of Lake Country Reporter).
Once merely a shelf of books, the Delafield Public Library has now grown to nearly 60,000 volumes located in 11,000 square feet at 500 Genesee Street. Still offering books, the library has expanded its offerings to dvds, music cds, audio books, newspapers, magazines, as well as popular children and adult programs. Since the 1990s, it has offered a computerized “card” catalog and public internet computers for use, followed by an online “card” catalog & databases through its website. While volunteers are still used and greatly appreciated, the library’s staff is comprised of all paid professionals. It is now funded by tax dollars from the City of Delafield, a county federated system, private donations, the Farber Trust Fund, and the Friends of the Delafield Public Library.
New Delafield Public Library,500 Genesee Street, 2010
Highlights from our history include:
1904~ Library opens at the town post office at Milwaukee & Genesee Streets. Postmistress Mrs. Lee Whitney acts as librarian.
1906~ Town of Delafield adopts resolution establishing a free public library.
1907~ First (unpaid) librarian Miss Laura Lidiker is established. First library board is formed led by Dr. A. J.W. Nixon.
1918 ~ During World War I, the Delafield Library donates 38 books to help provide library services to our soldiers here and abroad. Town board allocates $50 to library budget.
1923 ~ Library moves to the Town Hall on Genesee Street via wagon pulled by a white horse.
1925 ~ Town library budget increases to $150. The library is open twice a week with nearly 3,000 volumes.
1939 – 1959 ~ During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration did some rebinding of books. Budget increases to $175 with 4,130 volumes including books, magazines and periodicals. However during the next 14 years including World War II, library use fluctuated with the library hours and the ability to get a librarian, who was now paid a salary.
Site of former Delafield Town Hall and Library on Genesee Street (library photo)
1959 ~ Library becomes part of the City of Delafield when it incorporates.
1960 ~ Library moves to the former Cushing School site, 500 Genesee Street. With over 7,000 volumes, the library is open 18 1/2 hours per week by 1963. Thirty-one students from Mrs. Fern Wallner’s sixth grade helped with the move (photo below courtesy of Oconomowoc Enterprise.).
1968 ~ Expanding library moves to former Christ the King Lutheran Church site on Wells Street (now part of Revere’s Wells Street Tavern) this time with the help of the Boy Scouts. Governor Knowles spoke at the new library’s dedication
Governor Knowles speaking at the library dedication, February 9, 1969
(photo courtesy of the Waukesha County Historical Society
originally appearing in the Waukesha Freeman.)
1978 ~ Delafield Public Library becomes part of a county-wide system. The Friends of the Library is formed. Library is open 28 1/2 hours a week and uses a computer.
1985 ~ Library moves back to Genesee Street after a two-story addition is built onto City Hall.
1986 ~ The library hours expand to 48 hours per week, 11 to 8 weekdays and 10 to 1 on Saturdays during the school year. It is now open during lunch and dinner hours
2010 ~ Library moves into its new building that is part of a $5.2 million building project for a new City Hall and library at its same location. During the 9 months of construction, the library moved to temporary quarters in the lower level of 440 Wells Street. After two failed referenda to build a new library, a February 2008 referendum won approval to build the new facility.
Delafield Public Library from 1985 to 2009, 500 Genesee Street (library photo)
Sources: Jim Babcock, Hawks Inn; Margaret Zerwekh; Waukesha County Historical Society; City & Library records; Lake Country Reporter; Oconomowoc Enterprise; Waukesha Freeman.
Mrs. Lee Whitney* 1904
Miss Laura Lidiker** 1907
Miss Amy Hahn*** c 1910-1925
Miss Ethel Stevens
Mrs. R. Shaw
Miss Lottie Lurvey c 1930-1949