History of the Windham Public Library
Windham Center Circulation 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 fundraising 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.
Windham Public Library, 1972
“In April of 1971, the 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)
Windham Public Library, 1993
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 reached an incredible 99,000 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)
Shortly after the addition was completed, the library completed work that had been begun years earlier in order to automate the library collection and circulation system. In 1997, the library moved from paper to digital records. The computerized system allowed library staff to track the circulation of library materials much more efficiently and allowed patrons to search the library catalog through the internet!
As computers became more integrated with patrons’ personal lives, the Windham Public Library always took steps to keep current for its community. The library provided free computer, printer, and internet access within the building, as well as free wireless internet (wi-fi) access. As more and more patrons acquired e-readers, laptops, and smartphones, patrons reached out to libraries to fill the desire for reading and audio content. Windham Public Library provided access to digital books, audiobooks, magazines, and comics through a variety of platforms. And the library also provided something unique to the community—free guidance for patrons who needed help navigating those platforms on their various devices.
Meanwhile, Windham Public Library’s physical collection continued to grow and change with the needs of the community. Circulation of library materials in 2013 climbed over 100,000, showing that the library collection was still a popular and much-used resource. In 2014, the library joined the statewide library consortium called Minerva. As one of over 60 libraries on the system, Windham Public Library patrons had easy, self-requesting access to millions of items across the state. With delivery service five days a week, most items were shipped and received within days of being requested.
More changes came forth as time rolled on. In 2018, the library building was renovated to create a more-efficient circulation area, to provide often-requested study rooms and study nooks, and to replace shelving units. The library also joined the Maine Reciprocal Borrowing Program which gives our patrons in-person circulation access at participating locations. And in 2022, the Windham Public Library proudly celebrated its 50th anniversary!
Where will the library go from here?
The library will continue to explore services, programs, materials, and technologies that will benefit the community. Whatever your needs, you can find it here!
Windham Public Library is your center for community, information, technology, and entertainment by powering learning and fun for all ages. Read more about our mission, vision, values, core services, and strategic goals here.
(1) Lorenzen, Elsie B. “A past library.” 1971: p.98
(2) “Report of the Library Building Committee”. 1970: p.89
(3) “Report of the Library Building Committee”. 1971: p.97
(4) “Report of the Library Trustees”. 1971: p.99
(5) “Selectmen’s Report”. 1972: p.5
(6) “Report of Library Trustees”. 1972: p.62-63
(7) “Report of Library Trustees”. 1973: p.85
(8) “Public Library Report”. 1974: p.52-53
(9) “Report of the Windham Public Library”. 1992: p.8
(10) “Report of the Windham Public Library”. 1993: p.7
History compiled by Sally Bannen, updated 02-28-2022.
All sources found in the Town of Windham Annual Reports.