The New Hartford Public Library strives to be the center of community activity and identity by providing access to available resources and opportunities to further the educational, informational, recreational and cultural pursuits of the residents of the Town of New Hartford and the Mid-York region.
History of the New Hartford Public Library
Little is known about the first New Hartford library. A feature article in the September 7, 1952 Utica Observer Dispatch mentions an 1842 library that was partially financed by a state initiative. The article goes on to state that in 1892 Morgan Butler, a New Hartford civic leader, donated a building (Butler Memorial Hall) for a public assembly area, a library, and public offices. The Library in this building “contained 300 choice volumes and a large number of leading periodicals and newspapers”, all provided by Mr. Butler’s sisters and sisters-in-law with thirty books given by then Senator J. S. Sherman (later vice-president of the United States). Unfortunately the Butler Library was short lived. The Utica Public Library was incorporated as a public library in 1893 under University Law, Chapter 387 of 1893. This served as a de-facto library for New Hartford for many years
In 1952 another public library was initiated by the New Hartford Women’s Republican Club. Through their efforts the library at the New York State Institute of Applied Arts and Science (now known as Mohawk Valley Community College) became available for the residents of the town and village. Within a few years, however, the Institute left its Genesee Street Location (now the Wedgewood Apartments) and moved to the present campus in East Utica. Again New Hartford had no library. In 1975, the Utica Public Library had separated from the Mid-York Library System and was experiencing financial difficulties. In an effort to solve some of those problems, the Town of New Hartford was contacted to institute a user’s fee for New Hartford cardholders.
In the fall of 1975, a group of individuals in the town of New Hartford felt that a town resident should not pay for the privilege of reading. Therefore a group of ten housewives made plans to start a library in the town. On May 6, 1976, their grass roots effort enabled the New Hartford Volunteer Library to open. The New Hartford School Board allowed the volunteers to convert a basement shower room in the vacant Point School into a very small library. Dr. Clark Case donated his entire library to form the nucleus of the collection. The library functioned with a volunteer staff opening only on Thursday afternoons. It soon outgrew the original room and moved to a larger classroom. The collection of current fiction and non-fiction increased through donations and a few purchases. The circulation grew slowly and steadily. At the same time, the library ran story hours for preschool children and began a summer reading program for school children. The village of New Hartford received a HUD grant to convert the Point School into senior citizen housing. The grant required a community activity in the facility. This enabled a 2600 square foot library to be located in the basement of the Point School. In 1983, the library moved into the new quarters and received a provisional charter from the state of New York Board of Regents. It also became a member of the Mid-York Library System. This allowed New Hartford to borrow books from other libraries and use the training and other expertise of this large regional library system. The first professional librarian was hired. A permanent charter was granted by the New York State Board of Regents on January 19, 1988. The library was then open six days a week and soon had the fourth highest circulation in the three county region.
By the early nineties it became evident that the library was much too small. Three acres of land was acquired (part donated, part purchased) on Oxford Road. In April 1994, a bond issue to build a 7,500 square foot library on Oxford Road was put to referendum and defeated. A new board of trustees evaluated over thirty sites and explored such issues as consolidation with the Utica Public Library or with the New Hartford Central School library. The trustees concluded that the New Hartford community would be best served by erecting a 10,000 square foot building on the present site which was owned by the library. 1500 generous donors provided the $1,500,000 funding for the new library during a two year public fund-raising campaign. The library moved into a newly constructed 10,000 square foot building at 2 Library Lane on April 10, 1999 and opened to the public on April 17, 1999. Since that time it has become the third busiest library in a 47 library, three county region.