The Guilderland Public Library grew from a small beginning, from borrowed or rented space to a building of its own in 1992. Despite many changes during these years, the Library had the support and confidence of both town residents and town government.
In response to increasing population and a building boom following World War II, the Westbrook Women’s Club Library Committee obtained 900 books and $5.00 for a startup fund in a door-to-door campaign. The Guilderland Free Library became a reality in 1957, and for the first six years, operated with an all-volunteer staff. The Library was first housed in the Guilderland Elementary School then, in 1958, moved to the Plaza Shopping Center.
In 1959, the Library was housed in the laundry building next to the Wells Gas Station, and a rental system was started for new books at $.15 per week. The Library’s first charter was received on June 26, 1959. Two more moves followed in rapid succession when the collection of 2,000 books needed more room and circulation had doubled. Larger quarters were found at the rear of the Westmere Shopping center with space provided by Central Markets. In 1961, the Library moved to the front of Westmere Shopping Center when more space was needed again.
The Board of Regents Charter was received in December 1964. Circulation had reached 10,000 and the Library was open about 32 hours per week under the direction of the first librarian, Toinie Curtis. Through her efforts, the Library joined the Upper Hudson Library Federation in 1965. As the size of the collection increased, the Library was able to expand its services to all schools in the Guilderland School District, including St. Madeleine Sophie and Christ the King Elementary Schools.
In 1969, the Library moved to 1900 Western Avenue, its home for 14 years. The town experienced large population growth during this period, and the Library needed more substantial funding. The Library could no longer depend on door to door campaigns alone to raise funds;so, the Town of Guilderland was presented with a budget vote, requesting $3,150 for the purchase of library books. This request passed by 53 votes.
Library use continued to grow, and services increased. In 1971, a paperback book collection was added using donated paperbacks, and a film series was started. Then, in 1972, Friends of the Library began bridge parties as a fund-raiser. Also books weeded from the collection were sold with the money raised used to purchase new books, and a special musical event featuring a harpist took place in April. In June, delivery of reading materials to the Guilderland Center Nursing Home was initiated, and Senior Citizen programs got underway.
Progress continued with a quarterly newsletter started by 1975, and a cooperative agreement was made with Albany and Rensselaer County libraries to honor library cards from those participating. The Library helped the Town of Guilderland celebrate its 175th birthday with special programs. The first large print books were in circulation by 1979, and the Library presented its largest budget request to the Town, indicating a need for expansion.
The decade of the 1980s saw exponential growth. In 1980, community outreach broadened when the Library Director visited 12 classes at the Guilderland middle and elementary schools to speak about summer programs. Home delivery to shut-ins was initiated, a computer terminal, on loan from Upper Hudson Library Federation, was installed to connect Guilderland Free Library with Albany Public Library thus improving service for interlibrary loans. Exhibits were scheduled for the display cases.
Circulation increased by 1,100 items over 1981. Outreach services continued to increase with the Library Director speaking to many organizations that year. In 1983, the Library celebrated 25 years of service to the Town of Guilderland. After a search by the Board of Trustees during 1981 and early 1982, the Library moved to 1873 Western Avenue, with over 2,000 more square feet, in April 1983. An example of a special program that took place that year was a program by education specialists from the State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities who demonstrated how to help children better understand those with learning disabilities.
By 1984, circulation had climbed to 95,000; apparently the move to the 1873 Western Avenue location had helped to improve the quality of service with better access, especially for the disabled, more space, and better lighting.
By 1985 organizations such as the Apple Byters Club were meeting at the Library, while in 1986, the Friends of the Library provided more active support to library services and programs. A book drop and paperback bookracks are some of the many items the Friends have provided for the library. But despite improved facilities, space for patrons was scarce, and there would soon be no space for additional shelving. The library would be on the move again.
In 1987, the Board of Trustees increased to 11 members; a new meeting room was opened in January 1988. To become a public library funded by taxpayers through an annual budget proposition, a resolution was presented to voters authorizing the establishment of a school district public library to be governed by a an elected Board of Trustees. The resolution was approved by a large majority of the public who voted in May 1988.
Once the chartered status of the Library was changed, events moved rapidly. A bond issue requesting approval of $4.5 million for construction of a new library was given thumbs up by school district residents in June 1990. The following June, groundbreaking took place at 2228 Western Avenue, and the new 27,650 square foot facility was occupied in June 1992. Since moving to the new building, all facets of library service and use have mushroomed. Circulation alone increased from 1992 levels of 156,413 to 352,462 in 1996.
The Library’s building at 2228 Western Avenue provides a dynamic focus for the town. The modern facilities are a meeting place for many residents who enjoy reading a bestseller, doing research or checking out a magazine. The Library’s resources include, as well as books and magazines, newspapers, pamphlet files, large print collection, computers for public access, a job information center, CDs and books on tape. As a member of the Upper Hudson Library Association, the Library has access to collections of other libraries through interlibrary loan. The Library also has public Internet access and online periodicals.