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Update: Valuable books are missing from History Room

The small History Room is entered through the first-floor back hallway of the Hudson Municipal Building, 911 Fourth St. George D. Cline, Library Board president from 1904 to 1917, watches over the room from a portrait on a wall. Photo by Randy Hanson

The St. Croix County Historical Society is looking for 45 books and documents that have disappeared from the History Room of the Hudson Area Joint Library.

Some of the items are irreplaceable, and society members are afraid that more will go missing if security isn't improved.

The small History Room off a back hallway of the Hudson Municipal Building, in which the library is located, is a repository of rare and out-of-print books on the history of the Hudson area.

It also holds genealogical records, including Willis H. Miller's Hudson Area Biographical Index on microfilm. The index contains information on some 200,000 deceased Hudsonites.

Miller, the late Hudson historian and publisher of the Hudson Star-Observer, donated many of the books and documents for the History Room, which also holds government records, newspaper clippings, photographs and maps.

The historical society was asked to take over supervision of the room four years ago and has been working to catalogue and organize the materials.

An August inventory of the materials in the room led to the discovery that items were missing.

"Either they were catalogued to the room and we couldn't find them or they were items we knew were there and we couldn't find them," said Nancy Hawkinson, a historical society volunteer who helped conduct the inventory.

Hawkinson said the disappearance of a volume of August B. Easton's "History of the Saint Croix Valley" led to the inventory.

There were two of Easton's two-volume sets in the room until one of the books vanished last summer. The books are valued at about $450 a set, according to Hawkinson.

Also discovered missing were two copies of "A Most Beautiful & Handy Name," a book about St. Croix Valley place names by Timothy L. Ericson, the former archivist at the UW-River Falls University Archives.

Missing, too, are "Hudson's Distinguished Men & Women" by Willis Miller, "It Happened in Hudson" by Oswald Solheim, old Hudson High School True Blue yearbooks and both volumes of "A History of Wisconsin Highway Development."

Hawkinson hopes that some of the items are in the hands of researchers who have simply forgotten to return them.

A list of the missing books and other materials has been posted inside the History Room. Anyone who has any of the items is asked to return them.

Under a library and historical society policy, no materials are supposed to leave the room.

The library staff keeps the History Room locked unless someone requests to use it.

People must ask at the library's main desk to have the room opened. They are required to sign in -- writing their name, phone number and reason for using the room -- and a library worker accompanies them to the room and unlocks the door.

Associate Library Director Matthew Winkler said the library doesn't have a large enough staff to supervise the room while it is being used. A visitor to the room could walk out of the Municipal Building without re-entering the adult section of the library, where the main desk is located.

The Hudson library, unlike most larger libraries, doesn't have an anti-theft tagging system for books and other materials. The only theft prevention is people's honesty and the staff's watchfulness.

Winkler said he has heard some talk about opening the History Room for certain hours when historical society volunteers are available to monitor it. He didn't know what plans are in the works to improve security, however.

Library Director Linda Donaldson had taken the day off when a Star-Observer reporter stopped by the library on Dec. 26.

Winkler noted that anti-theft systems are expensive, and that the library's decision-makers would have to weigh the cost of a system against the cost of losing materials.

"I don't know what they can do with the library as it is," said Hawkinson. "You hate to see them close the room because people do come and use it."

Hawkinson, an amateur genealogist herself, knows how disappointing it is to be prevented from accessing historical records when visiting other communities.

She said she's met people from Illinois and Texas while working in the Hudson library's History Room.

"I know people are using it from out of state," Hawkinson said. "It is a nice room."

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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