Chester C. Corbin Public Library

Records of the Chester C. Corbin Public Library date back to 1867, but there is frequent reference to earlier library efforts, and particularly to a group called the Young People's Library Association.

Apparently this was a forerunner of the Webster Library Association which was formed on March 21, 1867. Dr. Frederick A. Brown was president. There was no library in the beginning, and the Association met in the Selectmen's rooms.

Their first vote was to expend $25 for the purchase of books. The town did not maintain the library, which was formed by a group of interested residents, who paid dues, and otherwise contributed money. Chester C. Corbin, for whom the present library is named, was an incorporator of the Association and always maintained a great interest in promoting good reading and providing good books for townspeople.

In 1875, the Association took a room in the Tracy Block and held weekly meeting. At this time, non-incorporators were permitted to take books.

The free public library came into being as a town-operated institution on April 1, 1889, following a town meeting at which $1500 was appropriated for this purpose.

First Librarian

Miss Maude Joslin was named first librarian when the library opened in the co-called Moorehouse Block, Main and High streets, on July 30, 1889. The room was upstairs and was almost immediately a busy place or those who enjoyed reading. The shelves carried 1069 books on opening day, and the first volume acquired and labeled Volume 1 was Mitchell's "Atlas of the World".

The first trustees chose by the town were: L. E. Pattison, Joseph P. Love, E. W. Preble, E. A. Smith, W. C. Whiting, H. A. Blake. When Mr. Whiting left town after serving a year, Carl A. Strout, the high school principal, was chosen to replace him.

Pay for the librarian was at the rate of 10 cents an hour. However, in 1899, a salary of $6.50 per week was established, with the library to be open six days a week from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.

In November, 1890, Mrs. Phoebe Kingsbury was elected to serve "as relief for the librarian". Whether this meant as an assist and to fill in when Miss Joslin was unable to be present was not made clear. A record of September 1892 shows that Mrs, Kingsbury was officially named librarian and Miss Annie E. Stobbs was appointed "assistant without pay". (Miss Stobbs later became Mrs. Henry J. Putnam).

By 1891, it was obvious that the library quarters must be enlarged to care for the growing number of subscribers and to house the additional books. Although another room was taken as a temporary measure, the first public library had outgrown its quarters by 1893.

New Location

Louis Pattison was still chairman of the trustees, Of interest was a vote taken in the Spring of that year, which reads: "It was voted after discussion to ask R. B. Eddy for the REFUSAL of his corner store" until the rental cost is more definite.

Then in September 1893, the trustees voted to hire the corner store in the R. B. Eddy block. The library was moved to this first floor location from the Moorehouse block on October 30, 1893. The site was later occupied by a portion of the First National Bank at the corner of Main and Mechanic streets.

The demand for books was so great that limits had to be set for borrowers. In order to accommodate Dudley neighbors, who had no library in their town, a vote was taken by which "persons from Jericho, Merino, Chaseville and Perryville" could borrow books "at a cost of $2 per year or $1 for six months." (For those who do not recognize the locations of these old villages of Dudley: Jericho was the Oxford Avenue-Stevens Linen section; Merino was the Central avenue-Schofield avenue section; Chaseville and Perryville remain the same as today).

A reading room was opened in 1899 to permit the serious adult readers more privacy and quiet. The records show that Spaulding Bartlett became a trustee in March 1895 and Ruth Slater was added in 1899. The latter was on the Board until her death many years later.

Mrs. Kingsbury remained librarian though two of the major moves of the Webster Free Public Library. In 1902, the library had to leave the Eddy block, and although the first vote was to hire "the second store in the New York Block", it was later voted to move to the second floor of the Columbia Block.

The first meeting in these quarters was in June 1902, and again it was not time before business outgrew the size of the quarters. Another room was added in 1907. Thereafter, with little or no room for expansion, the need for a library building became acute. School population as well as the town's population became larger, and more and more use was made of the library.

Gift of Building

In 1918, Mrs. Chester C. Corbin, who, with her husband, had maintained a lifelong interest in library work, bequeathed a large sum for the purpose of building and maintaining a public library. This was accepted at a special town meeting and the following committee was appointed to serve as a building committee: John E. Hickey, Myron Freeman, John W. Dobbie, Prentiss Howard and Clarence Nash.

Land was acquired at the corner of Lake street, bordering the High School park. The Chester C. Corbin Public Library was started in 1920 and completed in 1921 -- one of the finest small libraries in the Commonwealth at the time. It was fully equipped, even to a children's department.

A reception was given to open the building for inspection on July 30, 1921, after the quarters in the Columbia Block had been vacated.



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