Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Stuart Stotts

Lutie Stearns and Her Library Legacy
Stuart Stotts, Storyteller
Wednesday afternoon

Collecting some links while we're waiting to start...

Lutie -- born in Mass. in 1876. Moved to Milwaukee. Was left-handed, punished for it and developed a severe stutter that stayed with her her whole life. Became a teacher: her first day she walked into a room with 72 kids -- and one book.

Went to Milw. Public every Thursday to collect books for use in class. Eventually MPL hired her as a school library liaision.
Got involved in WLA and gave a talk about how every child deserves books. Despite stuttering over nearly every word, she received a standing ovation.
Met Frank Hutchins and found common cause. Melvil Dewey gave a talk in 1894 (or so) about traveling libraries in NY. Lutie and Frank thought this was a great idea.
They went to Senator Stout from Menomonie; together they worked for legislation to create traveling libraries in the state. Got a bunch together and sent them out to places around Dunn County. Lutie and Frank oversaw the project (she was on loan from MPL).
She was eventually hired by the Free Library Commission. Placed libraries in post offices, schools, stores, private homes...

From the brochure (1897): "It is after all, not the few great libraries, but the thousand small ones that may do the most for people."

Worked there 1896-1914, traveling around northern Wisconsin delivering books...amazing...

Eventually, she basically blanketed the state with traveling libraries. Afterwards she traveled the country for about 20 years doing lectures and promoting social justice.
Spent her last years in Milwaukee. Died in December 1943 at 77.

SS: There should be a scholarly monograph about Lutie Stearns -- but that isn't what he was writing. He was writing to communicate Lutie's spirit and dedication.
Comments and questions:
This should be in the library school curriculum.
How long did the boxes stay in one place? It varied -- 6 months sometimes.
How did they take care of the books? Sen. Stout wrote a pamphlet about clean books...

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