Skip navigation
Milwaukee Public Library Hours & Locations Close

Community Room and Hallway

Rotary Club Community Room and East Hallway

Note: The back part of this hallway, which includes the Board of Trustees Room and Reference Room doorway, may not be open outside of Bookseller/Café hours. If this hallway is closed, please visit again to see this area.

Central Library East hallway entryway

East hallway entryway

Rotary Club Community Room

Just to the east of the Grand Rotunda elevator is the recently remodeled Rotary Club of Milwaukee Community Room. It is just one of several reservable community and conference room spaces in Central Library. When the Library opened in 1898, this particular space was the Card Catalog Room. Patrons would come here to look through card catalogs to identify books they want to borrow. Once the information was found, it was then passed to Library staff to retrieve the items.

Central Library Card Catalog Room, 1898-1912

Central Library Card Catalog Room, 1898-1912

Reference Room

Further down the hallway, on the left side is a set of double doors and two display cabinets.  In the original 1898 building this was the public entrance to the main Reference Room. The Room was 2 stories with 3 floors filled with reference books. In 1947, this room was closed and renovated. With its very tall ceilings it was just too energy and space inefficient and therefore was divided in half.  Over the years the spaces were home to several subject departments before becoming storage and staff workspaces. The two display cabinets on either side of the current doors were made from the original doors to the Reference Room in 1950.

Views of the Reference Room, before and after the 1947 renovation

Central Library East hallway display cabinets

East hallway display cabinets

Board of Trustees Room

Further down at the end of the hall on the right is the only room still in its original form. This is the former Board of Trustees Room. There was a similar one on the other side of the building for the Museum but it has long since disappeared. If you look in through the window you can see the original hand-carved maple furniture designed specifically for the room. The doors on either side of the fireplace led to the former Office of the City Librarian (Library Director).  The Room appears much as it did in 1898 with the exception of the ceiling lighting fixture which was installed at a later date.   The trim on top of the wainscoting in the corridor is called “egg and dart.”  It is replicated in renovated areas throughout the library.  The bay leaf garland design found above the doors in the corridor is actually made of painted plaster, not carved wood. The 1991 film Dillinger used the Rotunda and the Old Board Room as a set.

Board of Trustees Room

Some highlights from the hallway display cases:

West side case (Grand Rotunda side)

  • Mozart’s Grove and picture of wooded area where library was built (Statue erected in 1885 – street electrified in 1890 for trolley, so this picture dates between 1885-1890)
  • Photo of 3 women on steps was taken between 1898 and December 1900.  (This picture was published in American Architect and Building News on December 29, 1900.)
  • Picture of carvers doing the fine carving work on the capitals of the pillars with quote from the book Magnificent Milwaukee.
  • Competition sign stating that there were 74 entrants
  • Cross section drawing of Rotunda
  • Picture of the Reference Room
  • Library souvenir china (some of them have the inscription Milwaukee Public Library-Museum, others just Milwaukee Public Library). (This type of souvenir china was popular in the late 1890s through the very early 1900s.)
  • Tile guide (presumably used by the tile layers as a color guide)

East side case (8th street side)

  • Part of a Ferry & Clas drawing of the Trustees Room
  • Photo of 4 MPL librarians in long skirts taken in 1905 (Women identified as Lillian Carter, Margaret McIntosh, Agnes Van Valkenberg and Laura Kilian – not in order)
  • Copy of page from 1893 Acquisitions ledger
  • Picture of Trustees Room: you can see part of the chandelier that used to be there
  • Plants in the Rotunda picture featuring children’s services – the library was crowded and often made use of all available space from early in this building’s history
  • Photos of some of the decorative letter “M”s in the building

Next stop: Welcome Desk

Previous stop: Grand Rotunda