Mission of the Windham Public Library
The mission of the Windham Public Library is to meet the needs of the whole community by providing a well-rounded and up-to-date collection, offering informational, educational and recreational services to every age group, and to encourage a love of reading and learning for all.
History of the Windham Public Library
The Windham Center Circulating Library was the seed that bloomed into our current Windham Public Library. “A few neighbors living on the Windham Center Road… loaned their books to each other as a winter pastime… when Mrs. Marcia Hanson moved to Windham Center, a short distance away, she placed all books given to her in a closet of her home and started the first library in this locality. Others joined her and the Windham Center Circulating Library Association was formed in 1873 with officers and board of directors. Although records were destroyed of that early organizational meeting, it is thought that Mrs. Mary Anthonine was the first president and Mrs. Marcia Hanson was the first secretary, treasurer and librarian. It is definitely established that Mrs. Nabbie Gould was the first vice president and that one means of fund raising was by public readings and lectures. After outgrowing the private home, a small building was rented from Mr. Fred S. Hawkes and purchased by the Association in 1907. One record shows money placed in a bank in 1887 and there were earlier funds from book-lending fees and fines which were used without deposit.”(1)
The Windham Center Circulating Library Association, with Mrs. Gladys Jones as Librarian, continued to serve the local residents for many years. As the collection and needs of the community expanded over the years, a Library Building Committee was formed to look into the future of the library. In 1970, the Committee reported that the “very small building at Windham Center… cannot serve our needs. It is not possible to expand this building, therefore, if changes are to be made, a new building must be considered.”(2) As plans were made to build a new, town-funded public library, plans were also made to close the old building. “This library at Windham Center has served the community continuously for approximately one hundred years… [it] closed its doors on December 27, 1971 when all its books were transferred to the new Town Library building. Although not the first library to be founded in this town, it is the oldest in continuing service to its’ people”.(1) In 1972, the Windham Center Circulating Library Association was disbanded, but its legacy continues to serve the community today.
(1) Lorenzen, Elsie B. “A past library.” Town of Windham Annual Report, 1971 : p.98
(2) “Report of the Library Building Committee”. Town of Windham Annual Report, 1970 : p.89
“In April of 1971, appointment of a committee to oversee construction of a new Public Library for Windham was made by the Selectmen… Construction was begun in August with the basic contract being awarded to the L. C. Cooper Company. Foremost in the minds of the committee was the desire to provide adequate library service to a growing community, with the construction of a quality, low maintenance facility, which would be sufficient for many years.”(3)
“On December 27, 1971, transfer of all volumes and equipment from the Windham Center Circulating Library Association, was made into the new Windham Public Library… We ask that everyone avail themselves of this fine new library, and the services which we intend to offer.”(4) “Dedication and Open House were held on Sunday, April 23, 1972, at which time your Trustees honored Mrs. Gladys Jones for her many years of devotion.”(6) The Windham Public Library “was officially dedicated and is being extensively used, not only by our citizens, but by citizens of some of the neighboring communities. Mr. William Crane and the Library Trustees have done a superlative job in making our Library one of the finest in the area.”(5)
The following years verified the success of the new library within the community. “Usage in the Library in terms of the number of books circulated shows a marked increase over 1972, with a total of 32,894. This is an increase of approximately 50%, and your Trustees feel very gratified that we are part of this excellent service for the Town.”(7) In 1973 and 1974, the Library Trustees reported on new projects at the library which benefited various members of the community. The purchasing of Large Print books and involvement in the “Talking Books” program, through the efforts of Librarian Mrs. Myrle Cooper,(7) have benefited blind or sight-impaired people. Mrs. June Hawkes initiated a service for residents of local nursing homes, “bringing books and magazines, as well as showing movies each week”(8) which continues to this day. The preschoolers’ Story Hour, run by Mrs. Susan Dries, was “extremely well attended”, as were an Arts and Crafts program. Other cultural programs, such as a film series on great art, were conducted and well attended. “Our customers are the citizens of Windham, and like any other business we must continue to provide the services required and requested by you… The growth we continue to experience is very rewarding to your Trustees, and hopefully to all of the town.” (8)
(3) “Report of the Library Building Committee”. Town of Windham Annual Report, 1971 : p.97
(4) “Report of the Library Trustees”. Town of Windham Annual Report, 1971 : p.99
(5) “Selectmen’s Report”. Town of Windham Annual Report, 1972 : p.50
(6) “Report of Library Trustees”. Town of Windham Annual Report, 1972 : p.62-63
(7) “Report of Library Trustees”. Town of Windham Annual Report, 1973 : p.85
(8) “Public Library Report”. Town of Windham Annual Report, 1974 : p.52-53
The next twenty years saw the library’s collection, programs, and staffing increase as they tried to keep up with the needs of the thriving community. Circulation of materials had reached an incredible 99,103 in 1992, showing the continuing demand for more and more library materials, as well as the use of the building.
“The need for additional and improved space for collection materials, programming, and handicap accessibility issues prompted the formation of a Library Building Addition Committee in 1991. Thanks to a $200,000 state grant, the Committee– chaired by Emerson Joy– worked quickly to complete the necessary groundwork for the addition. With an architect– Dick Reed– and a construction manager– Leon “Buzzy” Cooper, Jr.– in place, the project moved forward.”(9) The additional space and changes were completed, and on October 17, 1993, the library held an official ribbon cutting ceremony for the new addition. “The new public meeting room for library programming and non-profit use, and the elevator for handicap accessibility, were especially welcome changes for the library.”(10)
Since then, the Windham Public Library has continued to grow and change with the needs of the community. Circulation of library materials in 2011 climbed to nearly 114,000, helping to prove that the library is still a popular and much-used institution for the Windham community. The library has an automated circulation and catalog system which allows staff to track borrowed materials more efficiently, and gives library patrons online access to their accounts and the library catalog anytime day or night.
What else does the library offer these days? Aside from a wide variety of books, we also carry movies, audios, music CDs, kits, Large Print materials, magazines, foreign language items, literacy items, genealogy and local history books, as well as access to free downloadbles for e-readers and portable media players. We provide programs for all age groups, including weekly storytimes for babies and toddlers, our monthly TNT Club for ‘tweens and teens, our monthly book group for adults, and Summer Reading Programs for kids, teens, and adults. We also provide other popular services such as computer access, Wi-Fi, a circulating telescope, a puzzle lending program, and other free programs on various topics of interest. There is something for everyone, and we are always changing to adapt to our community’s needs. As our mission states, our goal is “to meet the needs of the whole community by providing a well-rounded and up-to-date collection, offering informational, educational and recreational services to every age group, and to encourage a love of reading and learning for all”. Come check us out and see what we can offer YOU!
(9) “Report of the Windham Public Library”. Town of Windham Annual Report, 1992 : p.8
(10) “Report of the Windham Public Library”. Town of Windham Annual Report, 1993 : p.7
-History compiled by Sally Bannen, 11-27-2012