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Library’s Janesville Room to mark 40th anniversary

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Shelly Birkelo
September 29, 2012

— A person who needed to prove Janesville residency to qualify for money from the unclaimed property office in Madison sought help at Hedberg Public Library.

Staff turned to resources in the Janesville Room, a compilation of materials about Janesville and Rock County history. The room will celebrate its 40th anniversary Tuesday, Oct. 9.

In the Janesville Room, library staff first checked city directories, said Sue Braden, reference librarian.

But they found no listing for the person.

Next, they searched old phone books.

“Lo and behold, we found the name listed with the person’s address and phone number,” Braden said.

The person made a photocopy, cited the source and was able to use it to collect the money, Braden said.

It is one example of how resources in the Janesville Room have helped library staff answer questions about local history.

During 6:30 p.m. event Oct. 9, participants can enjoy light refreshments, learn about information in the Janesville Room, get familiar with some of the room’s resources and learn about the kinds of questions resources in the room can answer, Braden said.

Demand for information through the Janesville Room has grown, Braden said.

“We find the more we learn and make available to people, the more requests we receive,” she said.

In 1972, staff at Janesville Public Library decided to gather the library’s many local history resources into one location. The Janesville Room collection included city directories, school yearbooks, maps, plat books, cemetery books, city reports, family histories, pamphlets and local news clippings.

The room’s local history database contains 49,050 entries about people, places, events, crimes, criminals and things unique to Janesville and Rock County, Braden said.

“We’ve digitized and transcribed our 1970s audio interviews with Rock County workers—many from General Motors in the 1920s and 1930s—and they can be heard or read online,” Braden said.

Janesville, once the second-largest city in Wisconsin, is older than the state. The city’s history has produced a variety of inventors, entrepreneurs, businessmen, legislators, community leaders, teachers, entertainers, artists and families who shaped ideas and the community, Braden said.

“The Janesville Room captures the stories of these residents plus so much more and offers them up to our community for exploration. Not only can you find these details inside the library, many of the resources have been digitized and are now available on the library’s website,” she said.

“We’re fortunate to have that space.”



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