The Oconomowoc Public Library is one of the oldest libraries in the state, progressing from a private association in 1870 to a public library in 1893. In 1918, the City of Oconomowoc took over operation of the library from the Oconomowoc Public Library Association.
From 1900 to 1987 the library was located at 212 N. Lake Road in a three-building complex that was constructed during the 1850s and ‘60s. In 1950 Oconomowoc High School graduate Josephine Machus was appointed library director. Among Ms. Machus’ qualifications was the fact that she had earned a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1944. Under Ms. Machus’ direction, the library started children’s story hours and the material collection continued to expand. Ray McKenna, who earned his Masters in Library Science at Rosary College in River Forest Illinois, became library director in 1981. During his time as library director, Mr. McKenna successfully guided the library through the building of a new library as well as many advances and updates to technology to keep up with the ever-changing demands for service. Ray McKenna retired in 2014 after 33 years of service at the Oconomowoc Public Library. Betsy Bleck was appointed library director in 2014. Ms. Bleck earned her Masters in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She joined the Oconomowoc Public Library as the children’s librarian in February 2008.
In 1962, the Oconomowoc Public Library Board recognized the need for a new library building. In 1987, the library moved to its current location at 200 South Street. The library has grown from a modest collection of 200 books to over 120,000 pieces of material including books, audiobooks, magazines, DVDs, CDs, and e-books.
Over the years, updates to the library facility have helped the library remain as welcoming and vital as when it opened in 1987. In addition to the updates to the physical library, library programs continually evolve in order to meet community needs. These developments will help the Oconomowoc Public Library remain the vital place it is in the community. The Library Board and staff look forward to future developments in library service for the citizens of Oconomowoc.