Northborough has a long legacy of public libraries


Northborough has a long legacy of public libraries
The Northborough Free Library in the Gale Library Building has served generations of readers since 1895. (Photo/Zenya Molnar)

NORTHBOROUGH – It’s 1874 and you are looking for a book at the library, which was a room at the town hall. You reference the finding list, titled Classified List of Books of the Northborough Free Library, and skim the table of contents for topics such as philosophy, useful and industrial arts, language, geography and travels, and fiction.

Everything is organized under the name of the author; otherwise, if you are looking for a title, you must use the card catalogue. You would have access to about 1500 volumes, and you would see three magazines—Littell’s Living Age, The Atlantic Monthly, and Harper’s Monthly. You would also be using an oil lamp, which would eventually be replaced with electric lights in 1908-09.

Let’s go back to the very beginning of the story. In as early as 1792, a social library was established by 30 men and had 100 books. Then in 1817, “The Young Ladies’ Library” formed, in which 60 members gathered weekly to work on braiding or sewing and listen to their pastor read books, the proceeds of their labor going towards the purchase of books and charitable donations.

About 10 years later in May of 1827, the Free Parish Library was founded, which was managed by the church, and later that year, the Free Library of the Congregational Society in Northborough was established, when the books from the social library were added to the collection. Any resident over 16 years old could borrow books, which were mostly of a religious nature, free of charge.

After a few more libraries were established, such as a juvenile and agricultural, in 1866 Captain Cyrus Gale offered $1000 to the town to start a library and was joined by fellow resident and jewelry factory owner Milo Hildreth, who donated $250. Both donors offered on the condition that a town hall should be built with a room for books. In 1868, the Northborough Free Library was established in the Northborough town hall and opened to the public on September 12. Hours were very limited at the start, especially in comparison to the library today—it was open on Saturday from 2-5 p.m. and then 6:30-9:00 p.m. Three years later, it opened on an additional day, on Wednesday afternoon and evening, and then in 1900, Monday was added as a third day.

In 1894, Cyrus Gale Jr., son of Captain Cyrus Gale, proposed that the library should be in its own building to have more space for the collection and gave $15,000 to fund it. Consequently, a new library was built on a site that was formerly Dr. Stephen Ball II’s apothecary shop, a shoe shop, and a clothing shop and Peinze’s bakery. The library as we know it today at its location at 34 Main Street was dedicated on June 12, 1895, as the Gale Memorial Library. Since the momentous occasion of the dedication, the library has been a thriving source of not only books but programming, digital collections, and community for people of all ages.


Farming history presents itself on Northborough’s Old Farm Trail

No posts to display