Library History — 19th Century

1848 – Middlebury Reading Association was organized. This group of men subscribed to most of the available periodicals of the era (e.g. The Wig and Democratic Reviews, Electic Magazine, etc.). Later known as the Middlebury Lyceum.

1866, March 29 – Organizational meeting in the home of Mrs. Rufus Wainwright. 60 women signed the articles of association to form the Ladies Library Association. The purpose of the Association was to establish and maintain a library for their membership. Each paid $2.00 in dues and elected Mrs. Abby Beckwith president and Mrs. Sophia Stewart, vice-president. Miss Emma Parker was the first librarian..

1867 – A committee was appointed to procure a suitable room for library purposes. Honorary membership was given to the wives of local ministers. Men were admitted to the organization. Eleven young women were designated as assistant librarians.

1868 – The collection consisted of 345 volumes. Social gatherings were held to raise money and membership grew.

1870 – A room “comfortable and convenient of access” was rented for $40 a year in a rented room in Buttolph Block on the current site of the Battell Block. The room was on the third floor and reached by an outside set of stairs. The collection increased to 673 books.

1871 – The annual report showed the library was “most decidedly a success and deserving of patronage.”

1885 – Membership declined due to the fact that women had “so much reading of papers, periodicals, etc. that they find no time for reading books!”

1887 – The collection was moved to the second floor of the building which is now the Hubbard Agency adjoining the Middlebury Inn.

1893 – The library was opened two days a week. Miss Start bequeathed $5,000 to the Ladies Library Association which used the interest for library expenses.

1894 – Six electric lights were installed.

1895 – The electric bill for the first year was $4.18. A man was hired to sweep the stairway of snow for 15 cents an hour a notice was posted in the library asking members not to mark the books.

1898 – The librarian asked if some sort of renumeration could be given for her services; if not, she would have to resign. The Association declared that while it extended its heartfelt thanks for her labors, no funds were available for pay. The librarian resigned and others volunteered.

1899 – Due to popular demand, a particular title was purchased, “David Harun.” Otherwise, titles were selected by a committee of the Association. School children were voted library privileges from June to September on payment of 25 cents.