The Westfield Memorial Library was originally founded in 1873, believe it or not, as the “Every Saturday Book Club.” A book club – how cute is that?! Twenty six area women started to collect, exchange, and discuss books. Their original collection consisted of 126 books, and a treasury, collected by them, themselves, of $16.21. (You can’t even buy a current book on an e-reader for that, now!) For most of the year, they met to exchange and discuss books, but then thee volumes were kept in storage throughout the summer.
After meeting faithfully like that for a few years, it was decided to explore the idea of opening participation up to anyone in the township who wished to participate. They called it the “Westfield Every Saturday Library,” (no, seriously), and met between 1879 – 1905 wherever they could – churches, schools, public rooms, etc., under the direction of the original 26 women.
Finally, in 1905, the town voted by an overwhelmingly happy majority to establish an actual, free, public library. A lot at the corner of Broad Street and Elmer Street was purchased for just under $4,000, with monies collected from private citizens and donations. Later, Andrew Carnegie actually donated $10,000 for the building and for books, and many Westfield residents donated funds, as well. In 1907, the first real free public library of Westfield opened to the public, with a collection of about 5,000 books
It has evolved over the past century into the Westfield Memorial Library of today, dedicated to Westfield residents who have given their lives for their country. A Children’s Department was established in 1929. The library moved into the municipal building in 1945, and then, in 1988, the current library facility opened at 550 East Broad Street and Stanley Avenue, at the site of the former Grant School.
Today, the Library is housed in a large, modern, Williamsburg-style building , with a collection of over 250,000 books, two dozen public computers, a wide array of multimedia options, a large youth services area with a vivid mural depicting Westfield history, and multiple tables and carrels for studying. It offers classes for adults and children, storytimes for children, computer instruction, and a variety of services for patrons and the community. Figures from a few years ago indicate that more than 260,000 patrons use the library annually to borrow over 350,000 items.
Quite a change from the original 26 women with 126 books.
Something to think about the next time your book club meets.