The Princeton Public Library serves the municipality of Princeton Wisconsin and the surrounding townships. All residents in Wisconsin may apply for a library card. Among our resources available to those with a library card, we also have free Wi-fi, public computers, and study and conversation spaces. The library has paid services including a copier and printer, fax, and laminator.
Founded by the Princeton Women's Club in March of 1933, the library began as a single room in the American Legion with about 200 donated books, plus 111 books borrowed from Madison. These were supported by old license plates bent into bookends. The library was open 3-4 hours each week, and although borrowing books was free, “those who care to” gave ten cents for their first library card “to help create a fund for current expenses.”
One year later, the library moved to rooms above Dr. Giese’s dental office in the “flat iron” building at 427 West Water Street. The library did not move again until 1947, when it made a short journey across the street to 432 West Water Street. The new facility was a small wooden building owned by Emma Stern, which had been built in 1880 by Josiah Whittemore. Only the front portion was used until 1959, when the library rented more space and a bathroom from the Sterns. In 1965, family member Adeline Stern donated the building and property to the city.
In 1979, eleven young children began raising money for library improvements with a lemonade stand, donating about $14. The following spring, on March 11, 1980, Library Board Chairman Morris Swed spoke to the City Council about the now 100 year old deteriorating building. This was the beginning of a years-long campaign to build a new library. Librarian and Women’s Club member Lorraine Cederholm worked tirelessly to secure grants and donations for the new building along with BARS (the Browse and Read Society, later renamed the Friends of the Library).
In 1985, with much help from local volunteers and organizations, the dream became a reality, and Princeton had its first purpose-built library. Located next door to the library’s old site, the new building at 424 West Water Street measured about 2,700 square feet. It boasted cathedral ceilings, a conference room, and separate areas for adults and children.
With the new library came many more customers, books, and programs. Success breeds success, and in a few short years, the library’s collection and activities had already outgrown the building. In 2019, an expansion and extensive remodeling project more than doubled the library’s size, taking over a lot previously occupied by a restaurant.
Today, our library is about 6,500 square feet, with over 21,000 books and other items. The facility was entirely built with money raised from charity events, grants, and donations. City Administrator Mary Lou Neubauer secured a large grant from the USDA. Bob and Maureen Schweder and Cliff and Liz Mashuda donated substantial sums. Librarians Vicki Duhr and Clairellyn Sommersmith held many fundraisers with the Friends of the Library. Thousands of dollars in small donations from area citizens added up to a huge gift as well. Today our beautiful library still looks brand new.
The current Princeton Library is open 56 hours per week (6 days per week) and offers a variety of online and in-person classes. Also available are public computers and Wi-fi, a copier, fax machine, scanner, tech help, digitization services like VHS to DVD transfer, crafts, Story Time, a Summer Reading Program, Mystery Book Club, and much more. Patrons are able to check out puzzles, guitars, video games, DVDs, books on CD, magazines, Large Print books, and graphic novels in addition to regular books. People are also able to download eBooks and audiobooks via the Libby/Overdrive system.
Recently, all of Princeton’s historical newspapers were digitized and added to a searchable online database which can be accessed at the library’s website, princetonpublib.org. Princeton papers from the mid 1800s to 1993 can be searched by name, date, and keyword. This undertaking was accomplished with the help of the Princeton Historical Society, the Winnefox Library System, and others.
Librarians over the years have included Olive Doyle 1933-1969, Ina Olds 1969-1979, Lorraine Cederholm 1979-1998, Vicki Duhr 1998-2013, Clairellyn Sommersmith 2013-2019, and Laura Skalitzky, 2019-present. They have been helped tremendously by many, many kind volunteers, trustees, and staff members. The wonderful Friends of the Library group still exists and holds several fundraisers each year.