About Us

By , March 15, 2010

Alma Public Library

P.O. Box 217

312 N Main Street

Alma, WI 54610

Located on The Great River Road, Highway 35, at Lock & Dam No. 4


We are part of the Winding Rivers Library System



Milestones –  by Marie L. Marquardt, Director

The Alma Public Library was established in 1985 to serve the City of Alma and surrounding Buffalo County.  Previously it as the Alma Free Library which grew out of a grass roots movement of neighbors lending to neighbors.

Establishing a library, nursing it and growing it has always been a challenge, especially for a small rural city such as Alma, Wisconsin.   But the underlying desire by this community to have a central depository of information, self-education, entertainment and free expression has always made that struggle fruitful.


Alma Public Library joined the Horizon Shared System in May 2007:  a next step up after automating the library in the year 2000.  It took one year to re-barcode the entire library so that our new barcodes could be read at any library in the Winding River’s System.  So many new services for the public are gained by this automation, especially the ability to request books from the comfort of your own home computer and have them delivered to your library.  This was such a large stepping stone to take and I hope the public takes the opportunity to thank its Library Board and City Council for approving the funding for the new system.

I decided to look back at some of its stepping stones.  So from the city clerk’s vault I retrieved the archival records of the library.


The first thing I found was the packet of information celebrating the library’s 50th anniversary in 1989.   What a milestone that must have been!  The library had just expanded to a large, bright room adjacent to the City Hall with 8,500 volumes, modern equipment, cassettes, tapes, TV, VCR, all under the direction of librarian Linda Torgerson.  One special speaker for the open house was Gladys Stohr who had continually served on the library board for the entire 50 years.  This was an impressive stepping stone, full of hard work and service, but it was not the first.


Another set of the articles told how the library officially became “public” back in 1965 when it moved into the city building (formerly the teacher’s college and which is now the Alma Museum).  With a spacious room, paneled walls, new carpet, a collection of 4,200 books and Miss Alice Johnson as the librarian, the public library was launched.  I can only imagine all the planning efforts, legalities, decisions, money and manpower it must have taken to accomplish this.

How happy that open house celebration must have been!  The archives were full of story hours, names of children who had won coloring contests, summer reading participants over the years, volunteers.  There were articles on Christmas parties, open houses, and Brownie Girl Scout ceremonies at the library.


I began to realize what a public library really means.  It, by its very nature, becomes the mirror of its community.  Not having a library in the community would be like not having one of your eyes, or ears, or arms.  If it is the reflection of the community, then it also becomes its springboard for growth.

But I believe its growing pains had its origins further back.

I retrieved the old 1939 ledgers and meeting minutes again from the city vault and found names inscribed there such as Mohr, Brevick, Harrison, Bachhuber,  Anstensen, Drew, Kelly, McCabe, and of course Gladys Stohr.  These first participants in an official library association were concerned with paying $6.00 a month to lease space in the Schreiber building; worried about overflow of donated books on the shelves, electing officers, sending notices to the Buffalo Journal, and assigning responsibilities.  Eventually Miss Ottilia Neumeister was hired as librarian in 1943.  It seems that for only twenty-five cents a year you could join the Alma Free Library association and have a vote in how it was run.   So this was the official beginning.

But I am told that there is more to the story.  It goes back to my original thought that this library was born out of determination to keep the mind active and growing.  Before any library was actually established, individuals in the community saw the benefit of trading, loaning and borrowing texts from one another: neighbor to neighbor, home to home.  This sharing of information has to be the fundamental cornerstone for where we are today in the library of the twenty-first century.

As this little library moves into automation, privacy issues, Internet filtering, freedom to have access to diversified materials, censorship issues and funding problems, I believe it is important to draw strength and direction from our strong community roots.  Believe me, according to their meeting notes, the original custodians of the library struggled with many of these same questions.

I am now encouraged as a librarian to merge the best of the past with the best promise for the future.  After our 2007 milestone, it will be interesting to see who will be in the next generation to serve this honorable community tradition.

© 2010 Marie Marquardt, Alma Public Library


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