On February 4, 1895 Mr. F.M. Rood, town photographer, and Mr. A.B. Carrigan, a Poultney businessman, discussed the lack of a library in Poultney as they rode to nearby Hampton, NY. The citizens of Poultney had been without a library since the old library in East Poultney closed in 1841. After further discussion with interested residents, a meeting was held on February 15th. At first a subscription library was proposed, allowing only those who paid for a membership to borrow books. After further meetings and much debate, it was decided that Poultney would open a free Public Library, to be supported by a tax of 8 cents on each $100.00 of the Grand List.
In the next months, the Trustees quickly set to work to organize their Public Library. The first floor of a private home was rented for $8.00 per month to house the Library. Eleven people applied for the new position of Poultney Librarian, three men and eight women. According to Mr. Rood’s journal, it was decided that “a lady for Librarian would be preferable to a gentleman”. As a result, Miss Addie Kilburn was hired as the Poultney Public Library’s first head librarian with a salary of $150.00 per year.
On June 1, 1895, less than four months after the idea of a Public Library was first proposed, the Poultney Public Library opened for business with 700 books on the shelves. A ten year gap in the records begins after the grand opening. At some point between 1895 and 1905 the Library was moved from its original home, and took up occupancy in three rooms of the original Town Hall building, where it would remain until 1956.
Throughout the years the Library was housed in the Town Hall, it continued to grow. Despite the fact that a woman was preferable for Librarian, for the first eleven years all of the Library trustees were men. In 1906 the first woman was elected to the Board of Trustees. Mrs. James Farnham was an active force in the Library for the next forty years. As the country changed, so did the Library. During World War I plans were made for the Red Cross to use Library space as an emergency hospital if needed, in the Depression relief workers helped with the Library duties, and during World War II Library rooms were used for first aid classes.
Since the founding of the Poultney Public Library, space has been one of the biggest concerns faced by its Trustees. In 1946, this problem was escalated when one of the Library’s three rooms was rented out to the Puritan Dress Company. In 1956 the company requested use of the entire floor, and once again the Poultney Public Library needed to find a home.
Many changes were necessary for the Poultney Public Library to make its move from the Town Hall to the old Citizen’s Bank, where it currently resides. In 1956 the Library had a collection of nearly 10,000 books, which had to be reduced to a mere 2,700 to fit into the new building. Many display cases also had to be disposed of, including a collection of stuffed birds which is still fondly recalled by those who remember the Library from its Town Hall days.
As soon as the Library opened at 205 Main St., the Trustees began looking for ways to expand the building space. In 1971, that goal was finally met with an addition to house the adult collection, allowing the original Library space to be used for a Children’s Room. It did not take many years before this building, too, was filled to capacity.
After many years of adjustments to try to fit expanding technology and programming into the existing space, an expansion and renovation began in 2016. This re-imagined the 1971 addition into a multi-purpose programming space and added a teen room in the former office (and original children’s room). The expansion almost doubled the building size to add a substantial room for adult collections, computers, study tables, and a quiet reading area. This addition was celebrated with a grand re-opening on January 29, 2017.
Poultney Public Library Head Librarians through the years:
- 1895-1912 Miss Addie Kilburn
- 1912-1916 Miss Mary Rood
- 1916-1920 Miss Lilian Vaughan
- 1920-1921 Mrs. Jennie N. Cook
- 1921-1926 Mrs. Frances Fenton Brayton
- 1926 Miss Esther Ripley
- 1926-1932 Miss Eleanor J. Allen
- 1932-1939 Miss Edith F. Ward
- 1939-1944 Mrs. Clara D. Barrett
- 1944-1948 Miss Eleanor J. Allen
- 1948-1957 Mrs. Mabel S. Pruden
- 1958-1959 Mrs. Irene Cebarborg
- 1959-1969 Mrs. Thelma Bruso
- 1970-1975 Mrs. Mary O’Hara
- 1975-1982 Mrs. Jessie Estes
- 1982-2008 Miss Daphne Bartholomew