History of the Cheshire Library
Community support for the Cheshire Public Library began in 1888 when a group of concerned citizens gathered together to form the Village Improvement Society. After the Society met its initial goals, they turned their attention to the establishment of a library. In order to stock that first library, Mary Baldwin and her friend Mary Dickerman spent many hours collecting books. In 1892, a Library Association formed, with Mary Baldwin volunteering to serve as Librarian, a post she would hold for the next 29 years. The first Cheshire Public Library officially opened in one room, once a school building belonging to Dr. Horton on Horton Avenue.
Two years later the Library moved to a house owned by Mary Baldwin’s father, presently known as the Belknap House.
In 1896 the Library moved once more, to a room in the public school building on the site of Humiston School. It remained there until 1909 when the building was condemned. Dr. George Williams resolved the Library’s housing dilemma by offering the use of his home on Main Street. The Library remained there rent-free for over 40 years. Upon the death of Dr. Williams in 1937, the Association purchased his home and the site for $7,500.
A new two-level library, next door to the Dr. Williams house was built in 1958. By 1961 all Library materials were housed in the new building and the Williams house was vacated. A library addition was completed and dedicated in 1975.
As of 1957, the Cheshire Public Library Association became what we know as the Friends of the Cheshire Public Library. The assets of the Library Association were turned over to the town and a citizens’ advisory Library Board was appointed by the Board of Selectmen.
Growth, expansion and the need for faster retrieval and processing of materials caused the Library to become automated. In 1978, the Library went “on-line” with four other towns, forming the first automated Library consortium in the state of Connecticut.
By the time the 1990’s rolled around it was obvious that change was needed to the physical structure. The building at 104 Main Street closed temporarily to the public in May 1995. In late summer 1996, the new Library opened. Interior space was increased by fifty percent and a third level was added. A larger programming room (named for Mary Baldwin) and sophisticated telecommunications links were among the improvements.
As the Library enters the 21st century, many of the changes are technological. Library users want to borrow more than books. Computerized retrieval and storage of information have streamlined the reference process. With all of this, Cheshire Public Library has not lost sight of its mission and remains a welcoming environment for relaxing and learning.
Ruth van de Bogart