Wisconsin State Law Library

Serving the Wisconsin Supreme Court and State of Wisconsin

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WSLL Timeline

Apr. 20, 1836 Wisconsin State Library is established by the same Act of Congress that creates the Territory of Wisconsin.

1837 Peter H. Engle, Speaker of the first territorial House of Representatives, goes to Washington & Philadelphia to purchase 1,500 books to start the Library.

1841 Legislation requires the Library to be moved to Madison, the newly chosen capital city.

May 29, 1848 Wisconsin is the 30th state admitted to the Union. During that year administrative authority for Library moves from the Legislature to an Executive Branch board of trustees.

1866 Library collection focus becomes law-related: "No books shall hereafter be purchased for the state library, except law books of reference and works on political science and statistics" (Laws of 1866, Chapter 119, Section 3).

1875 Non-legal books are transferred to the State Historical Society.

1876  Supreme Court & Attorney General become unofficial trustees of the Library.

1904-1910 After Capitol fire of 1904, the Library is rebuilt; formerly in the North Wing, it is now in the East Wing. Early photographs indicate the Library is completed in 1910.

1976 First circulation of books to borrowers outside the Supreme Court

1977 Board of Trustees abolished; Supreme Court given full authority over Library. Name officially changes from Wisconsin State Library to Wisconsin State Law Library, finally reflecting that it has been a legal collection for over 100 years. (Laws of Wisconsin 1977, Chapter 29, Section 1393). As a result, State Librarian is now State Law Librarian.*

1983 Library purchases first computer.

1984 Library holdings information is added to OCLC, an international resource-sharing database. 

1987 State Capitol Building renovation and restoration project begins.

1990 Library installs Innovative Interfaces online catalog with dial-in modem access.

May 1996 WSLL begins managing Milwaukee Legal Resource Center.

Jan. 1999 WSLL begins managing Dane County Law Library.

Mar. 11, 1999 Library launches its first web site.

June 7, 1999 Capitol restoration project reaches the East Wing.

Sept. 20, 1999 Staff moves out of Capitol into various offices around the Square.

Sept. 1999-Jan. 2000 User services must operate from Dane County Law Library. WSLL staff retrieve books from Capitol on request.

Oct. 12, 1999 Ground-breaking ceremony for the State Justice Center, later renamed Risser Justice Center

Dec. 1999  Books are moved from Capitol to Library's temporary location at 1 East Main St. 

Jan. 18, 2000 Library opens at 1 East Main St.

Feb. 2001  Inaugural issue of web newsletter, WSLL @ Your Service, is published.

Dec. '01- Jan. '02 Books move from 1 East Main St. & storage sites to Risser Justice Center, 120 MLK Jr. Blvd.

Jan. 22, 2002 Library opens in Risser Justice Center.

* * * * *

*State Librarians -- later known as State Law Librarians

  • Thirteen people served as librarian between 1836 and 1876
  • Since 1876, just five people have served:
    • John Berryman (1876-1906)
    • Gilson Glasier (1906-1956)
    • Edwin Jensen (1956-1967)
    • William Knudson (1967-1974)
    • Marcia J. Koslov (1974-2000)
    • Jane Colwin (2003 to 2011)*

      *From February 2000 through June 2003, Jane Colwin and Julie Tessmer served as interim co-state law librarians


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