You are here

About Us

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.


The Library Services Team was formed in late 2020 by combining the former Resources for Libraries & Lifelong Learning and the Public Library Development Teams. 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.

For questions about this information, contact Martha Berninger (608) 224-6161