It all began on Betty Howells' back porch, where PTA mothers would store the books they shared with each other. That is, until the books overflowed the porch and they realized they needed more space. On April 11, 1961 a group of people representing the PTA, the town’s churches, civic organizations, and Chamber of Commerce met to discuss the possibility of starting a library in Hawley. That night the first officers were elected to head the fledgling association.
Volunteers went to work sorting donations of books. The first expenditure for books totaled $8.00 and consisted of 16 books purchased at a hospital auxiliary sale. By November of 1961, the Hawley Public Library was open for business in one room of a tiny storefront on Church Street. The rent was $18 a month, and the first electric bill was a whopping $1.18. The library’s very first fundraising event, a clam chowder sale held on Election Day in 1961, garnered a sum of $32. During the library’s first months of operation, it was open an average of 9 hours per week. Records reflect that by 1963 the books overflowed the shelves and more space was needed, so a second room was rented and connected to the first. But before long, even two rooms weren’t enough! Thankfully, a Christmas angel visited the library in the form of Roger Blough. In December of 1965, Roger made a special gift of a plot of land and a new building to be constructed that would house the library’s ever-growing collection. On October 30, 1966 the Helen Decker Blough Public Library building was dedicated. The Hawley Public Library became a bustling center of activity in the town, with new borrowers signing up every day and volunteers working to provide books and programs for adults, children, and teens.
In 1984 Lola Longworth, a longtime library board member, donated money for a new library wing in memory of her mother, Louise Longworth. The Longworth Wing provided space for a reading room with reference books, periodicals, large print books, and study tables, and children’s room. Over the years the area’s population increased, and the demand for library resources grew as a result. By the early 1990s the need for additional square footage became a priority, and once again the vision and generosity of many friends allowed the library to grow.
For its survival throughout the early years, its growth, and its continuing success in the present, the Hawley Public Library owes deepest thanks to many people, but especially to our volunteers and our family of annual donors and supporters. From year to year the faces may change, but the volunteers are the reason the library can offer so much to the community. Week after week, year after year, they work behind the desk, in the office, and at fundraisers. Prior to 1993, when the library board created its first full-time staff position, the library was completely run by volunteers. At the end of 1997, a second paid staff member was hired, and a few years later a third, but the library still depends on its volunteer corps to get the work done. They are the backbone of this organization, and we couldn’t continue to successfully serve our community without them. The library also depends on the donations from supporters in our community who give time and time again. Their financial contributions help us in countless ways, but most importantly, they keep the lights on and the doors open, and we are deeply grateful for their continued generosity.
Over the past five-plus decades, the Hawley Public Library has evolved from a card-catalog based system with a strictly books and periodicals collection to a comprehensive digital database that assists patrons with locating books, magazines, DVDs, audiobooks, ebooks, right here in Hawley, as well as within libraries across the state and beyond. The mission of the Hawley Library, however, remains the same – a desire to educate, to offer materials that provide entertainment, to allow patrons to connect with the world at large, and to form lasting bonds with the members of our community.
The original location of the Hawley Public Library - 520 Church Street.
LIBRARY HOURS Monday: CLOSED Tuesday: 9:30 AM - 5 PM Wednesday: 9:30 AM - 3 PM Thursday: 9:30 AM - 5 PM Friday: 9:30 AM - 3 PM Saturday: 9:30 AM - 1 PM Sunday: CLOSED