Deep River Public Library was presented the 2009 Excellence in Public Library Service Award by the Connecticut Library Association and the Connecticut State Library.

 

Board of Trustees:

Pat Risinit

Louise Cowen, Treasurer

Sharon Emfinger, Chair

Linda Hall

Roy Jefferson

Peggy Marschiello

Rolf Peterson

AC Proctor, Secretary

Staff:

Library Director:

Susan J. Rooney, MLS

 

Support Staff:

Elaine Alexander

Linda Hall

Patrick McGlamery, MLS

Kaylee Moen

Jeanne Roussel

Wendy Sherman

Lee Wagoner

 

Library History:

One may be surprised to discover that no libraries existed in the Valley Shore area until the mid-eighteenth century. However, in 1737 a group of people banded together to form the Four Town Library. Their library consisted of a donkey with shelves strapped to his back, a stack of books and a librarian, the donkey's master. Passing through town once a month, his arrival became an event for both readers and non-readers alike. It was regarded as a social gathering. The book exchange was operated on an auction-like basis. Once last month's books were collected, they were auctioned off. The highest bidder had loan of the book for that month.

 

Records show that in 1760, the Four Town Library contained only three novels. Fitzhugh Halleck, a poet from Guilford, recalled in his autobiography that the Library contained "works of many standard English poets and novelists, essayists and historians" and "old and dog eared well-thumbed copies of Goldsmith, Gibbon, Josephus, and Joseph Andrews, Pope, and Pultarch and Shakespeare and Smollett, with numerous less used and heavy volumes."

 

Libraries on the Shoreline did not resurface until well after the 1790's, with the exception of Chester whose present library association was established in 1789. One explanation for the absence of a library in Deep River may be that the town then was still part of the Saybrook colony. Old Saybrook established its library in 1854. By setting up state guidelines, the Free Public Library Act of 1884 encouraged communities to set up public libraries. In 1889, The Essex Library Association was formed. Public libraries soon sprang up all along the Connecticut Valley. Another encouraging factor was the formation of the Connecticut Library Association in 1894. Urged on by the Association, the state provided incentives for towns to make their libraries public by offering grants of up to $200 yearly to be spent on books.

 

 

CHRONOLOGY OF LIBRARIANS
1900 - 1905 Nellie Post
1905 - 1906 Mary J. Burroughs
1906 Jessie Brainard
1907 - 1924 Lena A. Bailey
1924 - 1949 Clara E. Moore
1949 - 1980 Lois lngram
1980 - 1986 Susie Smith
1986 - 1986 Kathy Lee
1986 - 1996 Susie Smith
1996 - 1997 Karen Carreras Hubbard
1997 - 1999 Kristin Johnson
1999 - 2013 Ann Paietta
2013 - Susan J. Rooney

 

Interest in establishing a library in the Deep River area was sparked in March of 1899. Mr. H. N. Hull offered to give up part of his room in the Town Hall Building and to act as librarian. During a town meeting $200 was appropriated to establish and operate a library. The Deep River Public Library opened its doors to the public on May 26, 1900, offering 675 volumes to choose from. Mrs. Nellie Post was employed as the first librarian.

 

Just four years after opening, the Deep River Public Library had outgrown its room in the Town Hall. March 23, 1906, brought an open meeting of the Library Association so that citizens could express their preference as to a site for the library building. The Association members present at that meeting then voted to purchase the Banning-Smith lot combined, located at the corner of Essex Street and Main Street for a sum not to exceed $900 for the site of a new Library building. No definite plans for the library lot were made. However, in 1908, the annual meeting voted fifty dollars for the improvement of the lot at Essex and Main Streets. The following year $225 was appropriated for the formal grading of the lot.

 

During 1914 the library was forced to close its doors for a period of twenty-three days. This was due to the prevalence of scarlet fever in the area. In July, 1927, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, W.C.T.U. donated a beautiful grandfather's clock to the library. The chimes still charm the library. On August 19, 1932, a special meeting of the Association was called to discuss the purchase of the Spencer property for a library from the Estate of Julia S. Spencer. This property was located at the corner of Village and Main Streets in Deep River, across from the Deep River National Bank.

 

The Town of Saybrook held a special town meeting on December 16, 1932 to hear the proposal. Although it was the depth of the depression, Deep River had its heart set on building a library and people expressed their bitterness for not being able to do so. Richard Spencer had built the house in 1881 on the corner of Main and Village Streets on land bought by his father George in 1825. After his first wife died he moved to Corning, New York and went into banking. In 1866 he came back to Deep River; in the same year he married Miss Julia Selden of Haddam and he was elected President of Deep River National Bank. Later, in the early 1880's he served two years as Twenty-first District Representative to the State Senate where he was Chairman of the Committee of Fisheries and of the Committee of Banks.

 

Although Library Association money was used to purchase the Spencer house and land, it was given by the Association to the town as a gift. The town agreed to provide maintenance to the property as long as the building was used for a library and other civic purposes. After the purchase was secured, Mr. Harvey J. Brooks was put in charge of the Spencer renovation. The building was repaired, repainted, and a new heating system installed, and new book racks made.

 

Clara E. Moore was the first librarian in the new library, which opened on May 10, 1933. This occasion was celebrated with a public whist sponsored by the Garden Club. The Deep River Library building proved to be a very civic building. The second floor served as headquarters for the American Legion and the Garden Club. Classes such as those offered by the Red Cross often took place. The Board felt the library should not lend its use to dances. They believed it did not uphold the purpose of the building.

 

In 1967 the Deep River Library joined the Teletype service offered by the Connecticut State Library. This enabled Deep River residents to obtain books from libraries in Hartford, New Haven, Greenwich, and Bridgeport, which offered more extensive selections.

 

Seventy-five years of an established library saw changes and growth with the community around it. In 1975, the Deep River library offered 10,669 volumes and 140 record albums to choose from. This was a growth of nearly 10,000 books from 675 it opened with in 1900. During 1980, "Friends of the Deep River Library" was established. This group provided a new facet to library services by offering a variety of programs.

 

Insufficient space had been a problem almost since the Library first opened. Old, seldom circulated books were constantly weeded out, but by the 1970's the problem was becoming acute. In 1992 it received a large bequest from Ruth Johnson who had served on the Board from 1957 to 1965. She directed that the funds be used for expansion. In the same year bequeaths also came from Hazel Clark and Kathy Pierson. The new addition, which added shelf space, a new circulation desk and downstairs community room was dedicated in November, 1995.



Deep River Public Library
150 Main Street, Deep River, CT 06417
Phone: 860 526-6039
Email: deepriverpubliclibrary@gmail.com