History of the West Bridgewater Public Library
In December of 1878, Francis E. Howard, a prominent West Bridgewater citizen, offered the sum of five hundred dollars toward the development of a public library with the condition that an equal sum be raised from other residents of the community. Mr. Howard’s proposition was accepted with enthusiasm at the March 1879 Town Meeting and the additional sum of money was quickly raised through subscription, donation, and “entertainment.”
Those gather at the Town Meeting also established a Board of Director (Trustees) to oversee the founding and development of the new public library. IT was decided that “the Board should be composed of an equal number of ladies and gentlemen.”
The site selected for the library was a rented room in what was then the post office. After renovation of the room, acquisition of a collection of books (through purchase and donation) the library opened for business on the last Saturday in October, 1879. Miss Mary Perkins was employed as West Bridgewater’s first librarian, a position she held for the following thirty years.
In November of 1881, the library was moved from its overcrowded room in the post office to larger quarters in the Howard Seminary Building. By 1899, the twenty year old library had grown from a collection of 871 books to a total of 5,124 volumes. Once again the overcrowded conditions force the Trustees to find a new location for the public library.
In 1908, the library was moved from the Howard Seminary to the former Center Primary School. For the first time, the library occupied its own building. The new location was considered a great improvement, with more space, better lighting, and open bookcases which allowed patrons to browse.
In 1913, the library opened its first and only branch in the home of Mrs. Prescott Snell to serve residents in the North Elm Street area.
Library use grew slowly until the Depression, when circulation of books soared. During those years of economic hardship, there was a great demand for a larger library and for more books. The popularity of the library continued to grow through the late Thirties. During the Forties, the focus of the Trustees changed. The years during World War II were hectic ones, and the Trustees took on the added responsibility of collecting books for distribution to American servicemen stationed in Europe.
In 1956, a committee as appointed by Special Town Meeting to “survey library facilities,” because once again the use of the library was hampered by its physical limitations.
The Town Meeting of November, 1960 voted the sum of $50,000 for the purpose of constructing and equipping a new public library. construction began in 1961 and the resulting library opened its doors in September, 1992. The old library building (the Center Primary School) was sold and moved to the corner of South Main Street and Ash to house a business.
In 1980, the library was considered one of the busiest in the state. Book circulation approached 50,000 and more than 3,000 local citizens held library cards.
(Historical information was edited from papers of Hazel Snow Fletcher and Wilbur Parrott, past librarians.)
- Mary Perkins – 1879 – 1909
- Hatty E. Cary – 1909 – 1922
- Alice A. Goddin – 1922 – 1924
- Charlotte Williams – 1924 – 1941
- Jean M. Murdock – 1941 – 1958
- Hazel Fletcher – 1958 – 1970
- Christine Dowd – 1970 – 1973
- Wilbur L. Parrott – 1973 – 1974
- Jane Ouderkirk – 1974 – 1988
- Beth Roll Smith – 1988 – 2015
- Ellen Snoeyenbos – 2015