Camden Library History

Camden Chronology by Roy A. Snyder

    Responding to advertisements place in the local paper by Mrs. W.J. Frisbie, a group of forty women met at the home of Mrs. Walter Stevens on December 6, 1890, to organize a lending library.  Mrs. Elizabeth Pike was elected the first president, and annual dues were set at one dollar.  Residents were asked to donate books, and Mrs. Frisbie gave the first thirteen.  Eighty volumes were given by W.C. Stone, which he had maintained as a lending library at the Advance-Journal office.  On August 1, 1891, the Camden Library was opened to the public with 281 volumes in the corner room of the B.A. Curtiss Block, Main and South Park Streets.  Volunteers served as librarians.  By the end of the year, there were 549 volumes.

    In 1894, the library was moved across the street to the new Opera House building, and Mrs. E.C. Case was employed as the first regular librarian.  During the same year, the library was placed under the New York State Regents, making it free to the public.  In 1896, it was moved into the front room of the new Town Hall, where it remained for over forty years.

    Various means were employed to obtain money necessary for carrying on the work.  Concerts, lectures courses, suppers, rummage sales, and dramatic entertainments helped to swell the treasury.  Some money was even set aside for a building fund.  By 1905, the library had grown to a point where it received a certificate of approved circulation from the University of the State of New York, entitling it to public aid in maintenance, and the Town Board started annual appropriations of $500 for library purposes.  A few years later, the state started giving $100 yearly for the purpose of books, with the provision that a like amount be added to it from the town appropriation.  In 1912. the Library Association bought the Stoddard property on the corner of Union and Second Streets as the site of the future library building.  The house was torn down, and for years children wore a deep path across the bush-choked lot on their way to school.

    A fund raising drive was started in October 1936, and in 1937 contracts were signed for the construction of the 30 X 50 foot brick Colonial structure which was to be the library's permanent home.  Zingerline Brothers of Rome were the general contractors.  It was opened to the public on January 3, 1938.  It had cost $15,000 and had the first air conditioning system to be installed in Camden.  Forty years later, more room was needed, and the trustees lauched a campaign to raise $35,000 for a 28 X 28 foot addition on the back of the building.  When estimates exceeded that amount, additional funds were sought, and a total of $62,000 was pledged.  A donation of $21,000 was received from the trustees of the Arlene E. Phelps trust fund, and the new addition was named the Arlene E. Phelps Memorial Wing.  Dixon Building Company of North Bay was general contractor, and opening ceremonies were held on March 25, 1979,  The basement of the addition, called the Lion's Den, was finished and equipped by the Camden Lion's Club and is used for a variety of community activities.