History of the Library

Menasha's public library has been serving the citizens of Menasha since 1896, when the first Menasha Library and Reading Room opened in rooms above a store at the corner of Chute and Milwaukee Streets.

Lucinda Lee Pleasants was the driving force in establishing the first library, and she became its first librarian.  She held that position until her retirement in 1919. On the first day of operation, the library checked out 39 books, some of which were in German or Polish to serve the readers who lacked proficiency in English. The first reading room provided information, recreation, and education, which still describes the library's role.  Miss Pleasants' portrait hangs in the library's current Children's Room, and the story room is named in her honor.

In 1898, Elisha D. Smith, founder of Menasha Woodenware (now Menasha Corp.), donated land and money to build a library on Mill Street. Today, a portrait of Mr. Smith hangs above the library's fireplace.  The Mill Street Bridge was the main connection to Doty Island, and the first building people saw coming off the bridge heading north was the stately library.  The building on Mill Street was used until 1969, when a new building was built at 440 First Street.

In 2003, renovation began on the building, and during three phases of construction 18,000 square feet were added to the existing 28,000 square feet of the library. The $4.5 million project involved extensive renovation of the the old building with a spacious Children's Room, a concourse in the center, a solarium with a fireplace, and new meeting rooms.