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A Look Back: Libraries Through the Ages

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By Jolene Hawkins

Looking back into the history of the Town of Concord and Village of Springville— when did the libraries get started and where were they? Well, I’m sure that anyone who had a printed book was likely to share it with others.  But what about libraries?

From the 1830s  (and this one surprised me), one of the many churches we had contained an anti-slavery library.  We have several of the books in our collection. They are numbered on the inside and it states that they can be returned on the second Friday of each month at 1 o’clock.  So, yes, it was an actual library.

In 1867,  W R DePuy Stationary Store here also housed the Circulation Library in town and some of the books were Ned Nevins, Red Rover and Old Vauxhall, along with other tip top books. As I read over the newspaper during that year, he seemed to add 3 to 20 books a week.  How exciting for the town people to be able to check these books out to read them!

In June 1868, there was a fire in our town that destroyed 15 buildings on Main Street. The losses were great to the businessmen, but they were able to save most of the library books. But by August of the same year, all books were being asked to be returned WR DePuy as he was closing his business and moving out of town. It was not until 1870 that I saw ads for a library again.

GI schools had a report in 1872 that they had over 5,000 books in their libraries, over 3,000 students, and 181 teachers. This is combining all the schools at the time in Boston, Brant, Collins, Colden, North Collins, Holland, Sardinia and Concord.

To encourage reading in the community, a number of book owners, in 1874, clubbed together and formed the Springville Library Club.  Within the newly-formed group were a variety of 1,200 books.  New books were added as they were published. For only 10 cents a week (or 2 cents a day) a family could read books, taking one at a time and changing as often as desired.  The list of books and magazines was published in the newspaper. What were some of those books? Well, David Copperfields ~ Dickens,  Old Fashion Girl by L M Alcott, fairy tales by Hans Anderson, Wadsworth poetical works, Longfellow’s poetical works, history books, essays and other miscellaneous books.

Springville’s first public library was organized in the back of Walter Blakeley’s book store.   Around 1880, the small library was combined with that of the Griffith Institute with Mr. Blakeley as the librarian.

General John B Wadsworth bequeathed to the Village the sum of $250 when he died, for a Village Library, provided the Village would raise a like amount… which was done and trustees of the Village formed a committee to select the books.

Moving on to 1900,  I found that the card system, such as one used in the large libraries, had become necessary for the Springville Public Library.

In 1903, Miss Lucy Bensley was elected librarian of the Springville Public Library, where she served until 1962 … that is 59 years, folks— at one job!   

In 1909, the books were transferred from the old Griffith Institute to the new school by the school children.

In 1923, the Universalist Church gave the building to be used as a library. And the books were moved once more to that location in 1928.  Lucy worked at both of the libraries—the one at the school for part of the day and the rest of the day at the Buffalo Street location, until 1941, when she severed her relations with the school library.   She loved to search for new facts about the history of Springville, and was appointed by the New York state as official Historian for the Town of Concord.  With all of her work at the library, she still had time to help organize the Concord Historical Society.  Because of her, we have war posters , and scrapbooks of flyers and information that was from the town that she created.  She was known to save everything! Yes, we named the building after her… wow, all the items and history she saved for us, all the guidance she gave to kids.

The Hulbert Library opened on Monday June 27, 1994, and on that day, 1,200 books were checked out.  That is the same amount of books that the Springville Library Club started with in 1874!

You can see her scrapbooks at the Lucy Bensley Center… stop by one day and reminisce!

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