Our History from 1895 to Today
We continue to maintain the long-established tradition of adapting its services to keep up with the shifting needs of Wisconsin libraries and residents.
Resources for Libraries & Lifelong Learning and the Public Library Development Teams combined to form the Library Services Team in late 2020. WISCAT combines a physical and virtual union catalog with an Interlibrary Loan Module enabling Wisconsin libraries to discover and share resources throughout the state and nation. BadgerLink continues to license online resources and provides training and support in the use of these resources to Wisconsin educators and residents, and the Wisconsin Digital Archives offers government document access to everyone.
2009 - Team Name Change
The Reference and Loan Library becomes Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning.
2004 - Wisconsin Digital Archives Established
The Wisconsin Digital Archives was established as part of the Wisconsin Document Depository Program to support the collection and preservation of state documents in electronic formats.
1998 - BadgerLink Established
BadgerLink, Wisconsin’s Online Library, was established through recommendations from the Library Technology Planning Conference.
1991 - Statutes Include Wisconsin Document Depository Program
1991 Wisconsin Act 285 of the Wisconsin Statutes was revised to statutorily define the roles and responsibilities of the Wisconsin Document Depository Program which improved and strengthened the program.
1980s - WISCAT Transitions to Microfiche
The WISCAT Union catalog was developed in 1982 using Computer Output Microfiche and the MARC standard and, by mid-decade, ILL requests were handled via microcomputer equipment. Staff began using a remote terminal to search DIALOG databases, and the results were shared with libraries around the state.
1970s - Services Change with the Times
In 1971, The legislature passed laws authorizing the establishment of public library systems. The Reference and Loan Library gradually discontinued loaning materials directly to residents and instead served libraries through interlibrary loan, reference referral, and other services. The library also joined OCLC and undertook retrospective conversion of library catalog records.
Late 1960s - Expanding Use of New Technologies
Staff use TWP and TWX teletype machines to send and receive interlibrary loan requests.
1965 - Traveling Library Now Reference and Loan Library
The Wisconsin Free Library Commission was merged into the Department of Public Instruction as the newly designated Division for Library Services. The Traveling Library was renamed the Reference and Loan Library.
1903 - State Statutes Require Distribution of State Documents
Wisconsin Statutes include provisions for access to and distribution of government documents to libraries. In 1903, the Free Library Commission was tasked with designating libraries to receive shipments of state documents.
1895 - Free Library Commission & Traveling Libraries
The Free Library Commission was organized on December 3, 1895 thanks to Frank A. Hutchins, Lutie Sterns, and Senator James H. Stout. The initial “traveling libraries” were made up of donated books and delivered by train, wagon, or sled to Wisconsin towns and rural communities.