Former Associate Library Director and continuing library supporter Mildred Larson contributed 27 years of service to the library.
When the library moved into its present location and had space on the mezzanine to display art, Larson implemented a program of rotating art exhibits. She initiated the idea for ArtsWest and worked with the library’s Visual Arts Committee to coordinate this annual juried show for regional artists. ArtsWest is now in its 33rd year and has spurred the growth of the arts community in and around Eau Claire, providing a place for people to view art in all its various formats.
Due to Mildred Larson’s interest in providing educational programs, the library began holding many more free programs on such topics as fiction, poetry, gardening, movies, music, and wild birds. She wrote, and was awarded, numerous grants to fund such activities. As an off-shoot from one of these programs, a group formed the library’s first book discussion group, and that inspired the formation of additional book groups, then a writers’ group. So many of the activities taken for granted at the library today grew from Mildred Larson’s initial idea about the broader educational environment she felt a library should foster.
While working for the library and after she retired, Larson served the community and the State of Wisconsin in other ways. She served on the Arts Committee for Luther Hospital and the Arts Committee for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and she was a member of the Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School Board of Directors. Larson served as President of the Wisconsin Library Association, President of the Wisconsin Center for the Book and Chairman of the Wisconsin Humanities Council and she helped start the Chippewa Valley Book Festival, for which she currently serves as coordinator. In yet another facet of her public service interests, Larson was President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin. Her involvement and leadership in major organizations at the city and state levels enhanced the visibility and prestige of Eau Claire and the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library.