History of the Holyoke Public Library

Notice: The following article was included in A History of Hampden County Massachusetts, edited by Alfred Minot Copeland, and published by The Century Memorial Publishing Company, 1902.  This work now resides in the Public Domain, and may be used for personal, non-profit and non-commercial purposes only.  The file may be downloaded.  Ellen Pack 


     During the summer and fall of 1869, a number of leading citizens of Holyoke discussed the subject of organizing an association for the establishment and maintenance of a public library in the city, and as the natural outgrowth of the sentiment expressed on every hand, a public meeting was held January 12, 1870, in the hall of No. 1 engine house.  Judge BUCKLAND was elected chairman and Henry A. CHASE secretary of the meeting, and after an earnest presentation of the needs of the city in regard to the library project, it was voted to "establish a public library in Holyoke," and also it was voted to appoint a committee of eleven persons to prepare and report a constitution and by-laws for the government of the association. The committee charged with this work comprised

At the same time a committee of ten persons was appointed to solicit funds with which to carry into effect the objects of the association.  This committee comprised      At a meeting held January 18, it was voted to adopt the name of "Holyoke Public Library," and also to petition the general court for an act of incorporation.  On January 24 a proposition was received from the Parsons Paper Company in which the company offered to furnish land and erect a library building, of the value of $20,000, provided a like sum be raised by subscription for the final purchase of books and fixtures.  Upon the receipt of this offer a special committee (William WHITING, Judge BUCKLAND, and Henry A. CHASE) was appointed to canvass the town for subscriptions to the fund, but at the end of the month the committee reported that pledges to the total amount of $11,000 had been secured, and that it was doubtful if more than $2,000 additional could be raised.  Then a conference with the Parsons Paper Company was held, but without material results, upon which the former finance committee was instructed to resume its canvass on the original basis.

     On April 22, 1870, an act of the legislature incorporated the Holyoke Public Library, for the "formation and maintenance of a public library and museum," and authorized the association to hold real and personal estate to the amount of $100,000.  The act also provided that the management and control of the property be vested in a board of directors, not less than five in number, to be elected by the corporation;  and that "so long as said corporation shall allow the inhabitants of the town of Holyoke free access to it's library at all reasonable hours, said town may appropriate and pay annually for the expense of maintenance a sum not exceeding one dollar for each of its ratable polls."  (This provision subsequently was modified.)

     The first meeting after the act was approved, was held in May, 1870, at which time these officers were elected:

     The organization of the association having been completed, and the finance committee, previously mentioned, having secured a considerable sum of money in addition to the $1,000 appropriated by the town, the library began its career with every assurance of future prosperity, occupying upper rooms in the school building on Appleton Street for several years.  in the interior arrangement of the city hall certain apartments were designed to library occupancy, and at the annual meeting in 1875 it was voted to remove the books and fixtures to the new location, although some times passed before the removal was actually accomplished.

     During the first few years of its history, the library was maintained by the annual contributions of the members, the receipts from honary and life memberships, and the somewhat meagre appropriatins by the town. At first the appropriations were $1,000 annually, but after a tme the amount dropped to $500.  In 1883 the amount was increased to $1,000, and about that time it was suggested that the library be made absolutely free.  This was done in 1886, and for the next year the city voted $2,000 for maintenance.  Later on the amount was gradually increased, first to $2,500, then to $2,750, and eventually (1893) to $3,000, which sum has been appropriated annually.  For the year of 1902 the appropriation was $6,000.  In 1888 the mayor and the president of the common council were made ex-officio members of the board of directors, and thus the library became a quasi municipal institution.

     Soon after 1895 the friends of the library began to discuss the project of an independent building, and on frequent occasions the directors did effective work in that direction.  The subject, however, was one of discussion only until the spring of 1899, when the Holyoke Water Power company gave to the associaton the entire square bounded by Maple, Chestnut, Cabel, and
Exxes streets for the purpose of having erected thereon a library building - a structure suited to the requirements of the constantly growing city.  In the same year the associaton voted to apply to the general court for permission to hold real estate to the amount of $500,000 insted of $100,000 as prescribed in the original act of incorporation.  This was accomplished  and in the same year the number of directors was increased to thirteen members.  By diligent effort the directors secured pledges to the amount of $75,000 for a building fund, and this was afterward increased by further contributions.  The building committee under wose immediate and constant supervision the work of construction was done comprised

     The library building is one of the most complete and ornamental structures in the city, and all persons who were identifed with its constructon, in whatever capacity, are entitled to the lasting gratitude of the people.  A large share of the credit for the splendid work accomplished is due to the board of directors, who from first to last labored earnestly in its behalf.  Indeed, from the tme te institution ws founded, more than 30 years ago, the directors in office had been its most faithful friends and earnest advocates.  They have been chosen from amoung the best businesses and professional men of the city, and have given unselfishly both of their tgime and means for the public good.

     The library building is of light pressed brick with Indiana sandstone trimmings.  Its entire cost was nerly $100,000.  In 1902, the catalogue showed more than 20,000 volumes of books on the shelves.  The building was finished and ready for occupancy February 1, 1902.

     The officers and directors of the associaton from 1870 to 1902 were:

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