A Library in 1885

A hundred years ago establishing a library was an affair of cooperation among interested citizens. Several such collections were made over the years. Such a one was made in 1885.

The room chosen was over the Sullivan and Company’s store in the Pippo building. It was furnished with bookcases, desks and chairs for the village library. The desks moved from the Union School were neatly painted and grained to give the needed shelf room.

Over 1,000 books were collected from various sources and placed on the shelves. They were ready to be cataloged. At that time this process was a laborious one for the librarian. There was no central place where this service was provided complete with cards.

A call went out for books. “Now is the time to send whatever works you may be willing to contribute to the library.” Perhaps this is where the idea was gained that all unwanted books could be given to the library. This idea is not altogether useless for many volumes of value come to light.

An effort was being made to secure the “Alvord Library,” evidently sold in a series to subscribers as many such had consented to send their copies to the library. This would add 100 volumes to the collection.

Another source of books was publishing companies. Messrs. Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor and Company sent about 20 volumes, among them a fine atlas of the United States. A. S. Barnes and Co. forwarded a lot of 15 volumes of miscellaneous books. A popular history, U. S. Carrington’s Battles of the American Revolution and a memoir of President Garfield was among them.

The principal of the Union School, Professor Miller, contributed 30 volumes of new books. Among these were a set of 11 volumes of Washington Irving; Miss Young’s history on England, France, Rome and others, six volumes in all; Macauley’s England in five volumes; and light volumes of Macauley’s Essays. Evidently the high school had increased its collection of books from the time it had received the library of the second Whitehall Academy when it was dissolved so that it could give some away.
What a difference there is in the concept of a library today 100 years later. The school library with its fine collection of books has all the other attributes to add to youth’s training in microfilm, slides, magazines, computers, and other materials. It evolved in formal collection from the classroom libraries in the back of the rooms of Miss Waite and Miss Layden at Central building. The village library has grown from collections of donated books to it services in association with the Southern Adirondack Library System. Both are ready to serve youth and adults alike.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – Whitehall Times – December 11, 1986