Library History

History of the East Rockaway Public Library

Prior to 1900 a small group of friendly women of East Rockaway had been exchanging books among themselves. Members of this group included Mrs. Olive Denton, Mrs. Robert Davison, Miss Amelia Davision and her sister Miss Irene, Miss Mary Baisley, Miss Ella F. Carman and Mrs. A.E. Hewlett and her daughters, the Misses Ida and Hattie Hewlett. After several years they decided to make their books available to more people, and Mrs. Hewlett offered space in the Post Office, which was located in the Hewlett Store on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Main Street. A table was put in one corner and at specified days and hours one or two of these women were present to loan books from their small collection to the public.

The people of the Village appreciated being able to borrow these books, and the idea of establishing a Library grew until on Saturday evening, November 22, 1902, a group of men and women met at the home of Mrs. Hewlett to take steps in organizing an association to maintain a Library in the Village. They decided to call it the East Rockaway Free Library, and they applied for and were granted a Provisional Charter by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York on December 4, 1902.

The East Rockaway Free Library was first opened to borrowers January 24,1903. It was still located, by invitation, in the Hewlett building and started with 200 books. The Librarian and her assistants volunteered their time and services. During the first six months 808 books were circulated to 97 borrowers and 348 new books were added by purchase and gift.

The first to serve on the Board of Trustees were Mr. C.L. Phipps, Pres., Mr. T.H. Beeson, Mr. O.T. Hewlett, Mrs. Robert Davison and Miss Irene C. Davison. Mr. Hewlett was elected Treasurer and continued in that office without interruption until 1939. Miss Amelia Davison was appointed Librarian, a position which she held until 1926.

In its beginning the Library was supported by the annual association dues of $1.00 per member and by entertainments such as lawn fetes, boat rides, food sales, dances, euchres and voluntary contributions as well as state aid varying from $25 to $100 per year. Books were bought at Bargain and Hurt Book Sales and at Second Hand Book Stores, and from the start books have been generously donated by friends of the Library.

Gradually the Library grew. More books were added, a new shelf was built for them. Books were borrowed from the State Library in Albany a case at a time.

In 1907 late one warm summer afternoon Miss Baisley came home from serving her turn as librarian to find a visitor, Mrs Russell Sage of Lawrence. Miss Baisley explained that she had been taking her turn as librarian that afternoon. Mrs. Sage became interested and wanted to know all about this library. She thought these women were doing a splendid, pioneering work and wanted to help in some way. Through Miss Baisley, Mrs. Sage gave money to purchase the plot of ground adjoining the Bethany Church on Main Street and further gifts which paid for a building and left a small surplus in the hands of the Trustees.

That same year an absolute Charter was granted by the State and, at the request of Mrs. Sage, the name was changed to the Baisley Free Library.

The building was furnished to a large extent by voluntary contributions. Frederick Loeser & Co. donated a large American flag. President Theodore Roosevelt gave an excellent, autographed photograph of himself. Mr. Phipp had the title searched, Mr. Beeson had the grounds graded and landscaped, Mrs. Sage added book racks, many books and a privet hedge. Andirons, fender and grate were the gift of Mrs. Blottner,baisley Free Library and others gave pictures, shelf labels and holders and ornaments.

Miss Amelia Davison as librarian still had her corps of public spirited women to help in the work. Among these volunteers were Mrs. Robert, Davison, Miss FlorenceCuttler, Mrs. O.M. Denton, Miss Mary Baisley, Miss Melba Mott, Miss Sarah Schiffmacher, Mrs. John Davison, Miss Evelyn Rhame, Mrs. Mary Smith, Mrs. Roman Dobler, Miss Caroline Rhame, Miss Dorothy Emerson, Miss Florence Simonson, Mrs. Florence Simonson, Mrs. Lena Phipps, Mrs. Mudge, Mrs. Leo Guichard, Mrs. David Roche, Mrs. Ruth Emerson Ryan and Mrs. Gray.

In August, 1926, Miss Davison resigned from active work in the Libraryitself, and as several of the women who assisted her also wanted to be relieved, the Trustees decided to obtain the services of a paid Librarian. Mrs. Leo Guichard was appointed and the building was opened to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 3:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon and Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7:00 to 9:00 in the evening. Miss Davison still continued to buy the books, accession,catalog, label them and get them ready for the shelves. She and her former assistants also continued to mend and rebind worn books.

In 1926 the Village Board made its first appropriation toward the financial support of the Library and has continued this support each year. In 1927 the furnace refused to heat the building and Miss Irene Davison had a pipeless furnace put in. In 1929 the attic of the Library building was enclosed, partially shelved and equipped as a Children's Room. All the Children's books were put up there. A table and chairs were given by Miss Amelia Davision and, although the Trustees realized the conditions were not perfect, this gift did relieve to a considerable extent the overcrowded conditions in the Library.

In 1930 Mrs. Guichard resigned as Librarian and Mrs. Harriet B. Dobson was appointed in her place on May 15.In 1937 the Library received a gift of $2,000 as a bequest in the will of the late Miss Amelia Davison.With this money the Trustees bought the land adjoining the Library site.Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Rhame made a very generous gift to the library in accepting that price for their land.In 1940 Miss Irene C. Davison offered to help the trustees build a new building by buying the present site and building, which she then gave to Bethany Congregational Church and by a further gift of money.The trustees gladly accepted Miss Davison�s generous offer and engaged Mr. Paul F. Jagow, an Architect and a resident of East Rockaway, to draw plans for a new building.The trustees of the Village of East Rockaway were consulted, and gave their approval to the proposed plans.The trustees then engaged the Harvey Construction Co. to erect the building.

The Trustees hired a full-time librarian in March 1942, and the new building, approximately 2460 sq. feet in floor area, was dedicated on May 2, 1942, as the East Rockaway Free Library. In 1946, the library's total budget was nearly $5,000 a year, of which 4,250 was the Village's appropriation.The Trustees spent approximately $1,000 for books and $2,226 for salaries.The Library had a book stock of 11,374, with a circulation of 28,092 volumes and 1,706 registered borrowers. Between 1950 and 1955 the circulation increased from approximately 43,000 to 75,000, while the population had increased from 7,970 to around 8,200.

In January 1959, several Trustees attended a meeting in the Mineola Library where the Nassau Library System was discussed. They felt the plan as presented was so different from the earlier plans that they voted in favor of joining the CountySystem. The Library Board of Trustees determined that the East Rockaway Free Library should become a public institution. The Village Board was contacted and an application made to the New YorkState Department of Education.In February of 1965, the East Rockaway Free Library had its application approved and became a Public Library.All of the Board members from the East Rockaway Free Library were reappointed to the Board of the Public Library.

east Rockaway library

By 1970 it had experienced outstanding growth both in circulation and book stock. However, with book stock nearing 30,000 volumes, the increasingly cramped conditions forced the curtailment of services contributing to the fall in circulation from a high of 106,664 in 1963 to the 67,736 recorded in 1969. The Library Board, no longer was able to rely on the generosity of public spirited citizens like Miss Baisley, Mrs. Sage or of the Davison family sought public support for the construction of facilities that would permit the East Rockaway Public Library to continue to grow and thereby better serve the people of our Village.

In 1973 the old PIC building at 477 Atlantic Avenue was completed and the library was moved to the 11,000 square foot facility. From 1996-1997 the library was expanded and renovated . In June of 1997 the completed 12,500 square foot building was re-dedicated. The newly renovated library has computers, an online catalog, and databases as well as good books for your reading pleasure, reference help, children's programs and much more.