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South Windsor Public Library

A Century of Service

A History of SWPL

Present-day public libraries of New England often cite multiple beginnings, and the South Windsor Public Library is no exception. The Town of South Windsor established its Public Library in October of 1898 by voting to spend $200 of Town finances to match State funding available to establish library service for the Town, but that service already had roots in the South Windsor Library Association formed in 1856 (with a $2.50 membership fee), the 1858 Pleasant Valley School District #5 Library (complete with novels and “entertainment reading” for older users), and a Library open to the public at the Baptist Church in Wapping Center still in existence in 1899. Typically, groups of readers swapping books in less formal groups preceded these “established” libraries.

A Century of Service

Sadd Library

Sadd Library

In 1906, books and services of the various fledgling groups serving the east side of town moved into a new building donated and built by Henry W. Sadd, while residents on the west side of Town borrowed books from a room in the Union School. The “West Side” collection moved into a new building built by William Wood next door to the Union School in 1926. Sadd Library on Oakland Road, which once boasted a kit of foxes in its cellar, was closed due to woefully inadequate space for library services in the early 1960s, shifting all library service to Wood Memorial Library on Main Street. By the end of the decade, Wood Memorial Library was also outgrown, and in 1969, the Library's collections and services moved to a storefront in what is now Geissler’s Plaza for what was expected to be a “temporary” stay until a new library could be built. For the next nine years, occasional additions to the rabbit warren of space in the shopping center provided the Library's only physical growth, but services expanded through the use of programming space in local churches and schools.


A New Building

In December of 1965, Consultant Kenneth R. Shaffer completed a study “Planning for Change: Library Survey, Building Program,” using current standards to provide the Library Board of Directors with guidance for appropriate space for library services and collections for the next twenty years. Referenda to fund construction of a 25,000 square foot public library failed in 1973 and 1974. Within the following two years, Federal Unemployment Block Grant funding became available to the Town. Construction of a new public library was an eligible project, but the cost of a 25,000 square foot building exceeded possible funding, so the library plan was reduced by 10,000 square feet and the funding was secured. Funds from the sale of the Sadd Library building, the Anna Gaylord Rockwell Trust, the Clara G. Bartlett Memorial Fund {Hartford Foundation for Public Giving}, and activities of the Friends of the South Windsor Public Library (founded in 1975) helped furnish and supply the new Library. Wood Memorial Library remained the property of its Trustees, the Wood Memorial Association, as required by the terms of its original bequest. (Library and museum services at ‘The Wood” continue today under the auspices of the Friends of Wood Memorial Library, aided by a small annual stipend from the Town.) The new South Windsor Public Library, adjacent to Town Hall at 1550 Sullivan Avenue, was dedicated on April 1, 1979.

A New Building
 

Planned Expansion

Planned Expansion

The new library building was 60% of the size the Shaffer study had predicted would serve the growing Town of South Windsor until 1985, so the Library Board of Directors {designated by the Town Charter as fiscal overseers of the Public Library, a grant agency of the Town) understood from the outset that the time for expansion would come far sooner than usually expected for a municipal library. For ten years, members of the Board and Library staff availed themselves of opportunities to study library services, design, and construction processes, as well as funding opportunities and the process of introducing and supporting local referenda. Aided by a political action committee Citizens in Support of the Library, a successful referendum in 1995 approved construction of a 20,509 square-foot addition. The $4,613,000 total cost to the Town was reduced by a $350,000 State Library Construction Grant and a $95,223 Library Services and Construction Act (Federal) Grant. Once again, funding from the Friends of the South Windsor Public Library and local individuals and groups added special equipment and furnishings.