Cheshire Public LibraryEst. 1892
The Cheshire Public Library transforms lives and strengthens the community.
History of the Cheshire Public Library
Community support for the Cheshire Public Library began in 1888 when a group of concerned citizens gathered together to form the Village Improvement Society. After the Society met its initial goals, they turned their attention to the establishment of a library. In order to stock that first library, Mary Baldwin and her friend Mary Dickerman spent many hours collecting books. In 1892, a Library Association formed, with Mary Baldwin volunteering to serve as Librarian, a post she would hold for the next 29 years. The first Cheshire Public Library officially opened in one room, once a school building belonging to Dr. Horton on Horton Avenue.
Two years later the Library moved to a house owned by Mary Baldwin’s father, presently known as the Belknap House.
In 1896 the Library moved once more, to a room in the public school building on the site of Humiston School. It remained there until 1909 when the building was condemned. Dr. George Williams resolved the Library’s housing dilemma by offering the use of his home on Main Street. The Library remained there rent-free for over 40 years. Upon the death of Dr. Williams in 1937, the Association purchased his home and the site for $7,500.
A new two-level library, next door to the Dr. Williams house was built in 1958. By 1961 all Library materials were housed in the new building and the Williams house was vacated. A library addition was completed and dedicated in 1975.
As of 1957, the Cheshire Public Library Association became what we know as the Friends of the Cheshire Public Library. The assets of the Library Association were turned over to the town and a citizens’ advisory Library Board was appointed by the Board of Selectmen.
Growth, expansion and the need for faster retrieval and processing of materials caused the Library to become automated. In 1978, the Library went “on-line” with four other towns, forming the first automated Library consortium in the state of Connecticut.
By the time the 1990’s rolled around it was obvious that change was needed to the physical structure. The building at 104 Main Street closed temporarily to the public in May 1995. In late summer 1996, the new Library opened. Interior space was increased by fifty percent and a third level was added. A larger programming room (named for Mary Baldwin) and sophisticated telecommunications links were among the improvements.
As the Library enters the 21st century, many of the changes are technological. Library users want to borrow more than books. Computerized retrieval and storage of information have streamlined the reference process. With all of this, Cheshire Public Library has not lost sight of its mission and remains a welcoming environment for relaxing and learning.
Beth Crowley (2018–Present)
Ramona Burkey (2005–2018)
Ann Wrege (1984–2004)
Susan Bullock (1976–1984)
June Shapiro (1973–1976)
Evelyn Moss (1955–1973)
Gertrude Cutler (1949–1955)
Helena Williams (1925–1949)
Ruth van de Bogart (1921–1925)
Mary Baldwin (1892–1921)
The board consists of seven members with four year overlapping terms. Meetings are held on the third Monday of each month. The board oversees matters relating to the programs, activities and facilities of the library. Library Board Minutes are available at cheshirect.org.
Dalena DeSena, Chair
Kathleen Nankin, Vice-Chair
Terry Grahame, Treasurer
Tod Dixon, Corresponding Secretary
James Conroy, Member
Mark Hostage, Member
Harold Kramer, Member
Awards! We've got them.
Our talented Librarians have won many awards over the years.
Youth Development Award
Cheshire YMCA. An award to recognize significant contributions to youth in the community. Our Children’s Department won for their excellent community outreach activities.
Excellence in Public Library Service Award
Connecticut Library Association. This award honors public libraries that have provided an outstanding program or service to their communities.
Mover and Shaker Award
Library Journal. An award that celebrates emerging leaders in the library world who are innovative, creative, and making a difference.
School Partnership Award
Cheshire Public Schools. Given to staff, parents or community members who have made exemplary efforts to go above and beyond expectations to improve the quality of education for Cheshire school children.
Intellectual Freedom Award
Connecticut Library Association. This award recognizes an individual for the demonstration of extraordinary personal courage in the defense of intellectual freedom.
Outstanding Energy Achiever Award
Cheshire Energy Commission. An award for energy-conscious practices and savings from the library’s solar panels.
Publicity Award for Electronic Media
Connecticut Library Association. An award for materials designed by a library to promote a library concept or event. The Cheshire Library won for its outstanding Instagram page!
All-Star Award for Electronic Newsletter
Constant Contact. This award recognizes organizations that excel at engaging with their customers and building great relationships.
Cheshire Public Library: By the Numbers
125,913 people visited Cheshire Public Library last year
27,084 reference questions were asked
16,640 people attended 642 programs
18 internet computers were used 18,504 times
The library’s website was visited 105,578 times
Cheshire Public Library has 106,831 items in its collections
86,819 are books, 38,242 for children
9,834 are video, 10,042 are audio materials
Cheshire Public Library has 11,708 cardholders
359,026 physical items were borrowed from Cheshire Public Library
(that’s 12.2 per capita – national average is 6.6 per capita)
242,073 were books & serials
115,483 were audio-visual material
14,661 digital items were downloaded
Operating income for Cheshire Public Library was $1,800,251
That’s just $61.38 per resident
Municipal support totaled just $58.92 per resident
Only 1.53% of municipal revenue goes to support the public library