Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, Prince George’s County, Maryland

While many public libraries had been opening  across the country throughout the mid- to late-1800’s, the establishment of a public library system in Maryland lagged far behind.  In 1902, the Maryland State Library Commission (MSLC) formed to explore the establishment of public libraries within the State of Maryland.  In 1910, with the passing of new Maryland state library laws, The Maryland Public Library Commission (MPLC), which succeeded the MSLC, was established to “stimulate” the opening of permanent county and election district public libraries and to provide funds for the purchase of books for new libraries.  

Pre-2000 Library Card for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System

Pre-2000 Library Card for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (front)
Pre-2000 Library Card for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (back)

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System

The roots of public libraries in Prince George’s County can be traced back to the late 1800s.  In 1898, The Forestville Library Association held an “entertainment benefit” to collect funds for a public library, and in June 1899, they received a parcel of discarded books from Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library.  In 1890 a room at an engine house in Upper Marlboro was set up as a library and reading room by the Marlboro Fire Association.  In May 1910, Laurel’s “new public library” was readied for opening with 700 volumes. On June 5, 1915, local talent performed for the benefit of The Prince George[‘s] Library and Reading Room Association.  On November 26, 1916, an oyster dinner and bazaar was held in Mitchellville to benefit The Prince George’s Library Association, and as reported in The Prince George’s Enquirer and Southern Maryland Advertiser on February 4, 1921, a space in the J. C. Hawkin’s Electric Shop had been secured for a public library in Hyattsville.  Greenbelt and Beltsville each opened public libraries in 1939 and 1942, respectively. 

“The Reading Club Started, ”The Prince George’s Enquirer and Southern Maryland Advertiser, January 18, 1889, Page 3
“Laurel’s Library to Be Used,” The Baltimore Sun, May 9, 1910, Page 11

While legislation was regularly presented to Maryland’s General Assembly, the most earnest attempts to establish and maintain free libraries in Prince George’s County were made  by county citizen groups.  The MPLC continued to rely upon the traveling library system to provide free library services to Maryland county communities.

Free traveling library in Hagerstown, Maryland
Courtesy The National Archives Catalog.  Photographer: American Library Association.

No copyright restrictions.
Free traveling library in Hagerstown, Maryland
Courtesy The National Archives Catalog.  Photographer: American Library Association.

No copyright restrictions.

In 1946, The Prince George’s Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) was established “as a living memorial to those who have made the supreme sacrifice and a testimonial to all those who served in wars.”  The Laurel Public Library, which served both Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel, was the first branch library of the system. 

Today, there are 19 branch libraries in the PGCMLS, including Accokeek, Baden, Beltsville, Bladensburg, Bowie, Fairmount Heights, Glenarden, Greenbelt, Hillcrest Heights, Hyattsville, Largo-Kettering, Laurel, Mount Rainer, New Carrolton, Oxon Hill, South Bowie, Spauldings, Surratts-Clinton and Upper Marlboro.

Augusta County Library, Fishersville, Virginia

Pre-1995 Library Card and Sleeve for the August County Library

Pre-1995 Library Card for the Augusta County Library (front)
Pre-1995 Library Card Sleeve for the Augusta County Library (front)

The opening of the Augusta County Library in Fishersville, Virginia was announced in the Daily News Leader, on July 14, 1939.  Located in the Beverly Manor Elementary School, the public library was open to all “county folk.”   The library held approximately 1,400 volumes for all ages.  Miss “Lina” Hupman was the librarian.  The initial hours were Sunday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; however, due to robust attendance, Saturday hours (9:00 am to 1:00 pm) were quickly added and announced in The Daily News Leader, October 28, 1939.  

“County Public Library Hours are Announced,” The Daily News Leader, October 28, 1939, page 6

In August 1947, the Augusta County Library was moved to the new Wilson Memorial High School campus (formerly the Woodrow Wilson General Hospital). Occupying one of the numerous wards on the former hospital campus, the library boasted over 14,000 volumes and a film library covering over 165 subjects.

Pre-1947 aerial view of the former Woodrow Wilson General Hospital. No known copyright restrictions
“Many Subjects, Activities Offered at Wilson School,” The Daily News Leader, January 14, 1948, Page 2

Miss Evelina Gibbons Hupman (b. June 28, 1889 – d. July 31, 1958) retired on June 30, 1958, after 53 years of service to the Augusta County School system. 

“Wilson High Faculty Honors Librarian Who is Retiring,”
The Daily News Leader, May 28, 1958, Page 1

In 1977, after responsibility for the Augusta County Library was transferred from the Augusta County School System to the newly established Augusta County Public Library System, a new facility was built for the library on the Wilson campus. Plans for the new library facility included a reference desk, chess club, children’s story hours, a listening center, local history, and women’s collections, as well as bookmobiles to serve the community.  The new library was dedicated on March 20, 1977.

“Friends of the Augusta County Library Book Sale,” The Daily News Leader, March 5, 1993, Page 2

On December 17, 1983, the library moved to the old Fishersville Elementary School located at Rt. 250 and Rt. 608 in Fishersville.  The new location was a 25,000 sq, ft, building renovated for use as a library. In preparation for the move, the library asked members to check out 20 books each and return them to the new location after the move.

“Library Move,” The Daily News Leader,
December 8, 1983, Page 7 
1983 location of the Augusta County Library at Rts. 250 and 608.
The Daily News Leader, March 31, 1990, Page 85

In December 2010, after several years of preparation, the library completed a 14-month renovation project.   The Augusta County Library is located at 1759 Jefferson Highway, Fishersville, Virginia.

The August County Library. Google Maps 2022

Camp Bowie Army Base, Brownwood, Texas

1917-1919 Camp Bowie Library No. 2, Branch No. 2, Identification Card No. 818

Camp Bowie Camp Library No. 2, Branch No. 1, Identification Card (back blank)

In December 1917, the United States officially entered World War I with a declaration of war on Austria-Hungary. The Selective Service Act had passed in May 1917 in preparation for US involvement, and over 24 million men who had registered for the draft, were poised and ready for military training should they be called to service. To facilitate the training of new inductees, the US Department of War established thirty training camps throughout the US. The construction of Camp Bowie, a 2,186-acre facility outside of Fort Worth, began on July 18, 1917.

“Camp Bowie Library Will Open Friday.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 24, 1918, Page 9
Camp Library, Camp Bowie, Texas, c. 1917-1920. Copyright: American Library Association.

On November 11, 1918, the signing of the Armistice de Compiègne brought the end of World War I and victory to the US and its allies. Camp Bowie became a demobilization center and officially closed on August 15, 1919.

Camp Bowie reopened in 1940 and continues to be used as an active military training center.

American Library Association’s Library War Service

In 1917, at the behest of Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress, and Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, the American Library Association established the Library War Service to provide books and services to American World War I soldiers stationed at home and abroad, as well as, military hospitals and prisoners of war. 

Through public monetary and book donations, the ALA established at least 43 camp libraries and distributed approximately 10 million books and magazines, including braille books to soldiers that lost their sight in battle. The ALA also hired over 234 trained librarians to staff the camp and military hospital libraries through the grants from the Carnegie Corporation. In addition, “crafts teachers” were hired to teach convalescing soldiers skills such as mechanical drawing.

The camp library buildings were designed by architect E. L. Tillman and were equipped to hold approximately 10,000 volumes, and came with a small vehicle for library related tasks such as transportation of books.  Some camp libraries were equipped with fireplaces to provide ambiance and “a touch of home and civilization.” 

The Library War Service remained active through 1919, after which the library services became military-managed.  

Nashville Library Association, Nashville, Tennessee

Pre-1873 Nashville Library Association Legislator’s Ticket issued to W. M. Beek

Pre-1873 Nashville Library Association Legislator’s Ticket issued to W. M. Beek (front) (back blank)

Nashville Library Association

On May 13, 1871, the Committee on Organization published an article in the Nashville Union and American calling on the citizens of Nashville, Tennessee to come together to “consider a project of [no] deeper interest or importance” than to organize a public library “to advance the material progress of the people.”  By June 1871, there was a membership of 300, and on July 4th, the central room of the State Bank Building at Union and Cherry was secured rent-fee as the location of the library.  A yearly fee of $5 was instituted (approx. $150 today), as well as lifetime and honorary memberships at higher rates.  The library was available to men and women from 8am-10pm, Monday through Saturday. The citizenry of Nashville was encouraged to donate books and publications to fill the shelves before opening day.  Dr. D. H. Rains was engaged as Librarian. On September 11, 1871, the Nashville Library Association (NLA) opened its doors to the public with more than 3,000 mostly-donated volumes on the shelves.  For the next four years, the NLA would offer the lastest periodicals, newspapers and literature to their members, as well as lectures, concerts, poetry readings, spelling bees and more. 

Approx. 1881 photo of the Nashville Library Association at the State Bank Building on the corner of Cherry (now 4th) and Union Streets. (Building dismantled in 1882). Photographer: Rodney Poole (1837-1921). Courtesy Tennessee State Library and Archives. THS Picture Collection, THS 193, Box A, Folder 13, ID No. 13930.
The Tennessean, Wednesday, November 8, 1871, Page 4

On July 2, 1875, the Tennessean newspaper reported that the NLA had leased the library to the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) for a term of three years.  As membership and attendance had been declining, the YMCA proposed contributing funds to relieve the NLA of certain debts, and would take full charge of the library to “resuscitate its dying energies.”  

In January 1882, the YMCA published their intentions in the Tennessean to return the management of the public reading room to the NLA “since those for whom it was intended do not care to sustain it.” The YMCA no longer deemed it wise to divert donations from YMCA supporters meant to “aid young men” to the continued support of a failing public reading room.  At the same time, the State Bank Building, built in 1838, was sold and dismantled stone-by-stone in February 1882. 

Advertisement for bids on materials from the demolition of the State Bank Building, former home of the Nashville Library Association. The Tennessean, Wednesday, January 11, 1882, Page 2
Announcement of new YMCA location. The Tennessean, Thursday, January 26 1882, Page 4

The YMCA took rooms at the Olympic Theater Building to continue service to their membership, and by December 1882, management of the library returned to the NLA; however, the library struggled to remain open.  In an article in the Tennessean newspaper dated December 28, 1882, R. A. Campbell, Secretary of the NLA, beseeched Nashville citizens to “cast your bread upon the waters” and support the public library.  There is no significant information as to the continued operation of the NLA after December 1882.

The Presbyterian Sunday School of Alpena, Michigan

Post-1890 Presbyterian Sunday School of Alpena Library Card issued to Mrs. Polson

Post-1890 Presbyterian Sunday School of Alpena Library Card (front)
Post-1890 Presbyterian Sunday School of Alpena Library Card (back)

The United Presbyterian Church of Alpena, Michigan

The congregation of the United Presbyterian Church of Alpena organized in 1884 when the Detroit Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church of North America reported that a “special mission” had been established in Alpena.  The first worship service took place on July 20, 1884. A new church building opened on Washington Avenue in 1885.

New article from the Alpena Argus (Alpena, Michigan), Wednesday, January 14, 1885, Page 3, announcing the opening of the
new United Presbyterian Church on Washington Avenue in Alpena

Rev. Thomas Middlemis

Rev. Thomas Middlemis was born in Belfast, Ireland on December 28, 1839. According to Thom’s Almanac and Official Directory for the United Kingdom of 1859, he was associated with the Ballibay Presbytery of Castleblayney. On August 7, 1866, he married Jeannie Coulter who ten months later on June 3, 1867 at Killycard Cottage in Castleblayney, Ireland. In 1871, Rev. Middlemis immigrated to the United States. He married Jane Burns (born 1842-1926) April 25, 1872. They had three children, George Ross (1883–1949), Alice Maud (1875–1904), and Thomas, Jr. (1875–1928). The Middlemis family lived at 114 E. Maple in Alpena Michigan until his death from heart failure due to pneumonia on January 19, 1903. Rev. Middlemis, Jane Burns, Alice Maud and Thomas, Jr. are buried in the Evergreen Cemetary in Alpena, Michigan.

Obituary announcing the death of Jeannie Coulter.
The Belfast Newsletter (Belfast, Ireland), June 6, 1867, Page 2
Business college advertisement in the Alpena Argus (Alpena, Michigan), Wednesday, October 25, 1893, page 3
Obituary announcing the death of Rev. Middlemis
Rev. Thomas Middlemis obituary published in the Christian Work and Evangelist, January 31, 1903, Page 189

Alpena, Michigan

Downtown Alpena, 1884. 2nd Avenue, looking North from Washington Avenue.
Photo credit: Public domain photo from the Besser Museum of Northeast Michigan

Located in the northeast region along the shores of Lake Huron, Alpena was originally part of Anomickee County founded in 1840 (which was changed to Alpena in 1843). Alpena became officially incorporated on March 29, 1871.

Alpena is a pseudo-Native American word with an approximate translation of “a good partridge country.”

The Fires of Alpena

Most of Alpena was destroyed in the Great Michigan Fire of 1871, a series of simultaneous forest fires that burned 1.5 million acres and caused hundreds of deaths. Less than one year later, on July 12, 1872, another fire destroyed 15 acres of homes and businesses. The damages amounted to at least $250,000 (equal to nearly $6M in 2022), at least three people were killed, and hundreds were left homeless. Alpena was again hit by a disastrous fire on July 11, 1888.

Details of the Alpena Fire of July 1872.
The TimeHerald (Port Huron, Michigan), Monday, July 15, 1872, page 4
The Alpena Fire of 1888.
The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan), Thursday, July 12,1888, Page 2

As of 2000, there were approximately 10,000 full-time year-round residents in Alpena. The summer months bring an influx of tourists to enjoy the otherwise sparsely populated Northeast Michigan (lower peninsula).

Noted Alpenians

Leon Czolgosz (1873-1901), anarchist and assassin of 25th U. S. President William F. McKinley; William Comstock (1877-1949), 33rd governor of Michigan; Betty Mahmoody (b. 1945), author of Not Without My Daughter; and Blaise Ilsley (b. 1964), pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

Nekrasov Central Universal Scientific Library, Moscow, Russia

Post-2006 Nekrasov Central Universal Scientific Library Single Reader’s Card

Post-2006 Nekrasov Central Universal Scientific Library Single Reader’s Card (front)
Front of Card (English translation)
Post-2006 Nekrasov Central Universal Scientific Library Single Reader’s Card (back)
Back of Card (English translation)

Nekrasov Central Universal Scientific Library

The Nekrasov Central Universal Scientific Library had its beginnings at the First Library Congress in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1911, when Alexander Aleksandrovich Pokrovsky (Александр Александрович Покровский)(1879–1942), a Russian librarian and bibliographer, proposed the establishment of a network of public libraries throughout Imperial Russia. That proposal resulted in establishing The Central City Library of Moscow, which opened its doors eight years later on January 1, 1919..


Founder of The Central City Library of Moscow, Alexander Alexandrovich Pokrovsky (Александр Александрович Покровский) (1879-1942) Photo Credit: unknown author (no known copyright restrictions)

Since the library was established after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the catalog of The Central City Library of Moscow was comprised of “nationalized” inventory seized from private and state-run collections, book warehouses, and abandoned shops that became the property of Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik regime that had taken control during the revolution. The People’s Commissariat for Education, also known as Narkompros (Народный комиссариат просвещения, Наркомпрос), led by Anatoly Vasilyevich Lunacharsky (Анатолий Васильевич Луначарский), coordinated the centralization and inventory of collections.

The first location of the library, No. 10 Novaya Basmannaya Ulitsa (Новая Басманная ул., 10) was an elaborate private apartment abandoned by an attorney that fled Russia during the revolution. Subsequently, the abandoned residence came under the jurisdiction of the Moscow worker’s council, also known as Soviet (сове́т)1. This building currently houses the Department of Labor and Social Protection of Population (Департамент труда и социальной защиты населения города Москвы).

Constructed in 1914, 10 Novaya Basmannaya Ulitsa, became the first home to The Central City Library of Moscow. Photo credit: nekrasovka.ru (no known copyright restrictions)
10 Novaya Basmannaya Ulitsa today. The building currently houses the Department of Labor and Social Protection of Population (Департамент труда и социальной защиты населения города Москвы) Photo credit: googlemaps.com

In 1925, due to the growing demand for library resources, the Central City Library of Moscow relocated to Arbatskaya Ploshchad (ул. Арбат, 2/1) and merged with the Central Reference Library, which already occupied a part of the building.  The combined libraries were renamed the Moscow Provincial Central Library.  The new, combined library added new services such as bookmobiles, book delivery,  and specialized reading rooms, including youth and periodical reading rooms.  In 1936, the library’s name was reestablished as The Central City Library of Moscow. 

The second home to The Central City Library of Moscow. Parts of the building were constructed as early as 1799. The building located at Arbat Street 2/1 (ул. Арбат, 2/1) is deemed a cultural landmark and is now the home of the luxury restaurant, Praga (Прага ресторан). Photo credit: nekrasovka.ru (no known copyright restrictions)
Praga Restoran on Arbatskaya Ploshchad (Arbat Square) (Photo credit: Иван Манилов) This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license (original photo cropped)

Although readership declined during WWII, the library became a vital source for information and news from the war front.  Mobile libraries were formed to serve military personnel, evacuation centers, and hospitals throughout Moscow.  During air raids, the librarians would flee to bomb shelters with newspapers and books so that townspeople would have reading materials and news about current events while sheltering.

In 1946, to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the poet, N.A. Nekrasov, the library was renamed the N.A. Nekrasov Library.  

During the 1950s, the N.A. Nekrasov Library had a dramatic increase in readership and the volumes held by the library increased from 74,000 to nearly 300,000; however, not all of the inventory was available to the public.  In June 1955, to accommodate the increase in library inventory, the library was moved to the former estate of Princess Anna Sergeevna Saltykova (Анна Сергеевна кн. Салтыкова) (1848-1917) at No. 20/1 on Bolshaya Bronnaya (Большая Бронная ул). 

During the 1960s, the library inventory doubled to nearly 600,000 books, a library card system was created, and a card catalog was instituted.

The third location of the Central City Public Library (renamed the Nekrasov near Pushkinskaya Square at 20 Bolshaya Bronnaya  (Photo credit: Yuri Virovets) This file is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License (no changes made to original photo)

In late 2002, the Saltykova mansion began historic renovations, so the library was transferred to a former weaving factory (until 1990) and hotel (until 2002) at Baumanskaya Street, House No. 58/25, Building 14.  The Single Reading Card was introduced to enable readers to access information throughout the Moscow public library system via the OPAC-Global automated information system.  

Today, the library, now known as the Nekrasov Central Universal Scientific Library, functions as not only a library, but a cultural hub and teaching center for library services across Moscow.  The library is a member of the International Association of Metropolitan City Libraries (formerly INTAMEL) and participates in a number of international organizations and professional associations, including UNESCO, who on March 3, 2022, issued a statement (here) condemning Russia’s invasion and escalating violence in Ukraine.  In the statement, UNESCO demanded “the immediate cessation of attacks on civilian facilities, such as schools, universities, memorial sites, cultural and communication infrastructures, and deplores civilian casualties, including students, teachers, artists, scientists, and journalists. These include women and children, girls especially, disproportionately impacted by the conflict and displacement.”  

There are 306 libraries in 73 regions of Russia.

Current home of the Nekrasov Central Universal Scientific Library on Baumanskaya Street in Moscow, Photo credit:  googlemaps.com

Footnotes: 1 The English translation of Soviet is “council.” 

The M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library

1902 M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library Membership Ticket issued to Dr. G. W. Brown

1902 M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library Membership Ticket (front)
1902 M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library Membership Ticket (back)

The M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library

Illustration of the Steinert Building by Charles H. Overly (1908-1970) (No known copyright restrictions)

The advent of the pneumatic player piano, invented in 1895 by Edwin S. Votey, made piano and organ music accessible to everyone regardless of musical ability. The Pianola and Aeolian pianos were gaining popularity, and M. Steinert & Sons Music Company sold them alongside traditional instruments such as the Steinway and their own Steinert brand pianos. Steinert’s offered patrons a circulating library of Aeolian and Pianola music rolls for a subscription fee of $10 (three months), $15 (six months), or $20 (one year). Subscribers living within 75 miles from Boston were entitled to borrow for up to two weeks up to twelve rolls at a time. Subscribers living more than 75 miles from Boston were allowed to borrow for up to four weeks up to 24 rolls at one time.

The M. Steinert & Sons Music Company operated on “Piano Row” in the Steinert Building at 162 Boylston Street in Boston from 1896 to 2015. At the same address, four stories below street level, is Steinert Hall, a concert auditorium, considered by early-1900s Bostonians to be the “headquarters for the musical and artistic world of cultured Boston.” Steinert Hall was closed to the public in 1942 due to fire code restrictions. M. Steinert & Sons continues to be a top destination for quality pianos and instruments.

The Aeolian Music Company Piano Roll (no known copyright restrictions)
Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Massachusetts), Saturday, January 6, 1900, Page 22
Advertisement from The New England Magazine, Vol. 18, Page 264, 1896 (No known copyright restrictions)

Thư viện Quốc Gia (National Library), Saigon, Viet Nam

Pre-1972 Reader’s Card No. 2238 issued to Hữu Tuấn Nguyễn

Thư viện Quốc gia Việt Nam (National Library of Viet Nam), Pre-1972 Reader’s Card (front)
Translation of Front of Reader’s Card
Thư viện Quốc gia Việt Nam (National Library of Viet Nam), Pre-1972 Reader’s Card (inside)
Translation of Inside (left) of Reader’s Card
Translation of Inside (right) of Reader’s Card
Thư viện Quốc gia Việt Nam (National Library of Viet Nam), Pre-1972 Reader’s Card (back)
Translation of Back of Reader’s Card

Thư viện Quốc Gia in Saigon (National Library in Saigon)

Thư viện Quốc Gia (National Library) in the former Saigon, Vietnam (now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). Renamed the General Sciences Library of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by by Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên 5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)(unaltered photo)

Occupying the site of the old Maison Centrale de Saigon (Khám Lớn Sài Gòn), a much-maligned and overcrowded penal facility built in 1865, construction of the National Library building, designed by Vietnamese architect, Bùi Quang Hanh, began in December of 1968. The cornerstone was laid by South Vietnamese Premier Trần Văn Hương (1903–1982). Considered by many to be the height of the war in Vietnam, the 1968 cornerstone ceremony became an opportunity for Premier Hương to announce that there would be no ceasefire with North Vietnam.

The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), Sunday, December 29, 1968, Page 10

Built in a mid century modernist style and costing more than 130 million piastres ($400,000 USD), and the new library building was inaugurated by South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, in a ceremony held on December 23, 1971.  During that ceremony, Thiệu took the opportunity to share his confidence in South Vietnam with reporters.

Democrat and Chronical (Rochester, New York), Friday, December 24, 1971, Page 2

After the reunification of North and South Việt Nam, the National Library in Saigon was integrated into the national library system of the Socialist Republic of Việt Nam, and renamed Thư viện Quốc gia II, Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh (the National Library II in  Hồ Chí Minh City.  Shortly after, in 1976, the library was renamed Thư viện Khoa học Tổng hợp, Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh (Hồ Chí Minh City General Sciences Library), the name by which it is known today.

Graduate Student,Tran-Thu-Thuan tours the Central Kansas Library System, Great Bend Tribune (Great Bend, Kansas), Sunday, July 25, 1974
1974 Commemorative Stamps

Brookline Public Library, Brookline, Massachusetts

1879-1880 Brookline Public Library Card No. 3373 issued to Miss Anna White

1879-1880 Brookline Public Library Card No. 3373 issued to Miss Anna White (front)
1879-1880 Brookline Public Library Card No. 3373 issued to Miss Anna White (back)

Brookline Public Library

The Brookline Public Library was born out of an inconvenience to Benjamin F. Baker, one of the first trustees of the Board of Trustees of Brookline. Baker contemplated and investigated the idea of a public library as early as 1847. Although any formal action to establish a public library wasn’t until 1856 upon a failed attempt to consult an unowned reference book[1].

After gathering support for his public library proposal from prominent Brookline citizens, Baker succeeded in having Articles 7 and 8 inserted into the “warrant” (agenda of items) for the annual town meeting held on March 16, 1857:

From the 1893 Annual Report of the Trustees of the Public Library of the Town of Brookline

The articles were accepted at the following town meeting held on March 30, 1857, and on December 2, 1857, Brookline’s public library was opened to the public.

The first home of the Brookline Public Library was a 36 1/2 x 29 foot room in the Brookline Town Hall. The modest space was fitted with shelves on two walls, and equipped with a desk for delivery of borrowed books. The first librarian, John E. Hoar, served 17 years, resigning on September 19, 1871, when his duties as school principal became too demanding.

Brookline Town Hall c. 1920.  Photograph by Leon H. Abdalia (1884-1967). Source: Boston Public Library. (public domain)

New Library Building

Although additional rooms were provided for the Town Hall library, by 1861, the library inventory had increased to 11,000 volumes, necessitating the need for an even larger space. In 1867, the town trustees approved the building of a new library, and on October 9, 1869, the new library building opened to the public.

Original Brookline Public Library, built in 1869.. From the Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, by the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, 1891. (public domain)
Interior of 1869 Library. Credit: Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection Online, Brookline Photograph Collection, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode

1889 Expansion

In 1888, at a cost of $16,500, an additional wing was added to the library building, as well as a reading-room in 1891. This additional provided space for 75,000 volumes.

Brookline Public Library after the 1889 expansion. From the Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, by the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, 1891. (public domain)

Continued Growth

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Boston Evening Transcript, Boston, Massachusetts, August 15, 1906, page 17
Boston Evening Transcript, Boston, Massachusetts, April 22, 1908, Page 21

Another New Building

Boston Evening Transcript, Boston, Massachusetts, June 3, 1909, page 3
The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, July 18, 1910, page 2

A growing community necessitated yet another library expansion. In 1907, the library Trustees In June 1909, R. Clipston Sturgis Cornerstone was laid November 1, 1909

361 Washington Street
The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, September 10, 1910, page 15
The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, September 10, 1910, page 15

Brookline Public Library In the News

Boston Evening Transcript, May 5, 1909, Page 25
The Hartford Daily Courant, December 25, 1911, Page 8

Miss Anna White

Anna Catherine White, born October 27, 1864, was the daughter of the co-founding namesake of the R. H. White & Co. department store in Boston, Massachusetts, Ralph Huntington White (1841-1917).

Died January 7, 1895 in Aiken, South Caroline. She is buried next to her father’s museleum at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

R. H. White & Co.

Advertisement from The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, December 31, 1926, page 12

[1] 1893 Annual Report of the Trustees of the Public Library of the Town of Brookline, pp. 7-12

Bill Library, Ledyard, Connecticut

Pre-1884 Library Card issued to Miss Sadie Main

Pre-1884 Library Card issued to Miss Sadie Main

Bill Library, Ledyard, Connecticut

Pre-1923 Postcard of the Bill Library, Ledyard, CT (Public Domain)
Pre-1923 Postcard of the Bill Library, Ledyard, CT (Public Domain)

In January, 1867, Henry Bill, a successful business-owner in nearby Norwich, contacted prominent members of the Ledyard community and gave notice that it was his desire to establish a free library for his “native town.”

Letter to Rev. N.B. Cook, January 12, 1867. From History of the Town of Ledyard, 1650-1900, by Rev. John Avery, published Noyes & Davis, Press of the Bulletin Co., Norwich, Connecticut, 1901 (no known copyright restrictions)

Through the generous donations of books and funds from Henry Bill and his brothers, Ledyard and Gurden, the Bill Library opened Monday, October 7, 1867, with approximately 1,000 books housed in custom-made bookcases installed in the Congregational Church.

The Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, October 8, 1867, page 8.

A New Library Building

Eventually, the small library in the Congregational Church became inadequate, and plans to build a new library building, separate from the church, was planned. With $3,000 donated by Henry Bill and his brothers, and land donated by Henry Bill, the new building was built on the “Common” across from the Congregational Church. The new Bill Library was dedicated on September 13, 1893, during the annual meeting.and dinner of the trustees of the Bill Library Association.

The Hartford Daily Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, September 20, 1893, page 8

The original building was expanded in 1971 and again in 1982, and is still located at 718 Colonel Ledyard Highway. The library collection contains over 67,000 volumes, and circulates nearly 165,000 items a year to a population of 15,000 residents.

Henry Bill

Born in Groton, Connecticut on May 18, 1824, it was Henry Bill’s desire to “leave a permanent testimonial of [his] great regard for [his] native town,” and so established the Ledyard Library Association with an initial donation of $1,000.  

Henry Billl (public domain)
The Bill Block at the corner of Water & Shetucket Streets., Norwich, CT. Plate from a book published by the Henry Bill Publishing Company.

Henry Bill died August 14, 1891, and is buried in the Yantic Cemetery in Norwich, Connecticut.

Henry Bill Obituary. The Journal, Meriden, Connecticut, August 15, 1891, Page 1

Edmund Spicer

Edmund Spicer, born January 11, 1812, was the first Librarian of the Bill Library Association (1867 to 1890). He died May 1, 1890, and is buried in the Spicer Cemetery in Ledyard, Connecticut.

Sadie Elizabeth Main

Sadie Elizabeth Main born March 13, 1870, daughter to John L Main and Phoebe Frink Main. She married Herbert Richardson (1856-1930) in 1891. Sadie Elizabeth Main died December 18, 1940 and is buried in the Pachaug Cemetery in Griswold, New London County, Connecticut.