The 2004 Salem Free Public Library building features a central core with vaulted ceilings and clerestory windows to bathe the central structure in natural light. Ceiling fans facilitate air and heat circulation. The library is configured to allow public use of the large program/meeting room during non-library hours.
IT STARTED AS A VISION:
John A. Young, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, was one of the originators of a plan associated with former Senator Hiram Bingham in a move to make books available to children in Salem. At the school graduation in June 1914, Professor Bingham first presented Geography prizes to Salem children. Mr. Young, in thanking Professor Bingham, emphasized the fact that contact with books brings a peculiar form of pleasure to children and at the same time directed attention to the fact that there were few books available to children in Salem. This statement led to an informal meeting of Professor Bingham, Mr. Young, Ernest W. Brown, another Yale professor who had recently bought the old Shingle Hill place in Salem, and James Lane, a longtime resident of Salem.
The outcome of this conference was the raising of some money, which formed the nest egg of a Salem Library Fund. The money was placed in the hands of Mr. Young, who was directed to investigate the situation and to raise further funds for the Library. As that autumn drew to a close, about $200 in cash had been subscribed; which, together with gifts from the state, amounted to a total of $500.
SHARING THE VISION WITH OTHERS:
The housing of the Library was problem. The Town Hall, the Central School, or some room in a private home all offered solutions. Bela Pratt offered his house at Music Vale Road, rent-free.
In December 1914, Professor Bingham called another informal meeting of those who had been active during the summer and fall at his Woodbridge home to consider organizing a Library for the Town. Added to the original group was the late Ernest E. Rogers of New London, President of the Winthrop Trust Company and former Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut. They completed the articles of incorporation for the Salem Library, Inc., and established a board of trustees. Mr. Young, as secretary and treasurer, was authorized to cooperate with Mrs. Bella Halcomb Johnson of the State Library Committee in selecting books and making the necessary arrangements.
Mrs. Helen Malona was appointed Librarian. An unused room in the parsonage was selected as the first home of the Library. The meeting of the trustees was held at the home of Town Clerk, Charles A. Williams, where the incorporation papers were signed. The process of incorporation was completed, January 19, 1915, when the approved articles were received in the records of the Town of Salem. The papers were signed by Hiram Bingham, Ernest E. Rogers, John Young, Ernest W. Brown, and James Lane.
PUTTING THE VISION INTO ACTION:
Between January and October of 1915, much time was given to organizing the new Library. Many friends sent books. Several collections were gifts of the Misses Butts of Norwich, and the New London County Historical Society. Through Professor Bingham, Yale University made many contributions. Mrs. Hakes and the Cragin Memorial Library of Colchester were also very generous. Mrs. Sherwood of the Westport Public Library gave a set of Woodrow Wilson’s reference books History of the United States.
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