History of MCL
The Mukwonago community has a tradition of support and interest in reading and library services. Our library had its beginning in 1883 when interested residents started a “Library and Reading Room” in the Unitarian and Universalist Church. The club periodically purchased a book, then assigned it to a member for reading and subsequent reviewing at a future club meeting. Books accumulated and a room in the church became Mukwonago’s first library.
The Library and Reading group later disbanded but was reformed in 1903 as the Utopian Circle. The library moved to the north wing of the “red brick house” (now the Mukwonago Museum) in 1917. In 1921 the library moved to the Village Hall and into two jail cells. Mrs. Jessie McKenzie and Miss Leona Lotz were the librarians. In 1933 the village took over support of the library. The jail cells housed the library for 40 years. In 1961 Floyd McKenzie, president of Citizens Bank, and his wife, Jessie, purchased a house next to the Village Hall on Grand Avenue to be used as the public library. In 1964 the library became known as the Floyd and Jessie McKenzie Public Library. Mrs. McKenzie continued as librarian until her death in 1971.
In 1992 two fulltime librarians were employed, and the original collection of 120 books had grown to 12,000. The library joined the Waukesha County Federated Library System to provide additional services. Currently, there is a staff of 16 full and part-time employees, and the number of volumes and patrons continues to grow.
Timeline of Mukwonago Community Library History
The first organized library in Mukwonago was started by several members of the Unitarian Universalist Church. Members donated a few books each and the small collection was maintained at the church, primarily for the use of the congregation.
An organized group of young women–the Utopian Circle– initially took turns as librarians, and the collection rapidly grew thanks to donations from many community members. Soon after its founding, the fledgling library was incorporated under the State Library Association. The Utopian Circle raised $25 from its members and received another $25 from Miss Vinnie Vanderpool. Donations of books were also received, and the new library was opened in the north wing of the McNulty house (currently the Red Brick Museum.)
The library was open Wednesday afternoons and Saturday evenings, and by 1920 Miss Betty Andrews had taken over as librarian.
In 1921, the library was moved to the Village Hall (present day Police Deptartment), where the Study Club reorganized it. The Village Council assumed responsibility for the collection at his time, contributing $100 annually toward its support. Village support of the library’s mission continues to this day, supplemented by money from the surrounding towns and counties.
The library remained part of the Village Hall building for several decades. Jessie McKenzie took over as the librarian in 1923, a position she would hold until her death in 1971, a career of nearly 50 years.
In 1961, the library moved to a house on Grand Avenue that was donated to the village by Floyd and Jessie McKenzie.
Library operations would continue at the newly christened McKenzie Public Library for over three decades, though a number of renovations and expansions occurred during this time.
By the mid-1980s, the library is looking for a new site as the former McKenzie house was rapidly approaching capacity with no good options available for further expansion. Fund raising toward this goal is begun.
Between 1985 and 1994 a number of building sites and options are considered. Eventually, the site of the Washington Ave. school is settled upon and planning and fundraising begin in earnest.
Construction on the new library on Washington Avenue began in the summer of 1995. Work continued throughout that year and the new library was ready for business in 1996.
Unfortunately, soon after it was opened the new library was already showing signs of being too small. This problem only worsened as population in the community rose and the pressure on the facility and the staff increased.
Preliminary plans for an expansion were explored as early as 2000, and by 2005 the library was looking at expansion in earnest.
Originally envisioned as a two-story expansion, by 2009 the library board, in conjunction with its architects had decided a one-story solution was preferable.
As March 2011 arrived, and the start of construction drew near, the library had to pack up its tent for a ten-month stay at the old roller rink on Main Street.
Fortunately, our temporary home served us well while our old home got a complete make-over and huge expansion.
Groundbreaking on the new library was April 11, 2011. Many supporters of the library attended despite the blustery April weather.
After the groundbreaking, the construction crews got busy. Soon our old home was barely recognizable.
Under new leadership, MCL continues to expand services and create long-lasting partnerships within the community. The library has evolved to include MetaSpace 511, The Thingery, an updated Young Adult area, a Seed Library, a Book Bike, and many other renovations and innovations to ultimately improve accessibility and customer experience at the library.