Records of the early history of the Cooperstown Library are very sketchy. The first library opened March 11, 1796 under the auspices of Captain Timothy Barnes. Not much more information is available other  than the library closed soon thereafter.


In 1820, The  Freeman’s Journal ran a classified advertisement for the Washington Library Company, and in 1825, the Journal announced a meeting of the Franklin Society Library of Cooperstown. No further  mention of any of these organizations appears, but late in June of 1828, James Cameron advertised a circulating library complete with a list of books he had available. Unfortunately, less than a year later he advertised a forthcoming auction of books and bookcases.


Apparently, library  service in Cooperstown was not a high priority item then or for some years to come. A library opened in 1867 by the Young Men’s Association of Cooperstown languished and died after a few years despite offering magazines and newspapers as well as books.


In 1898, the present building that houses the library, village offices and art gallery was formally opened. It was built by the Clark Family to be used as a YMCA, library and museum. Ellen Wilson was appointed librarian and served until 1917. Thus, the beginning of the current library is really 1898; it has continued to operate under different sponsorships since then.


Robert Sterling Clark donated the building to the Village of Cooperstown in November 1932. The next year the Women’s Club of Cooperstown appointed a standing committee to support  the library and in 1939, assumed total responsibility for its operation.


Ten years later, the Village took over operation of the library. The Village Board appointed a Library Board of Trustees in January 1949 and the University of the State of New York granted the Village a charter on March 1 of the same year. On that date the Village Library of Cooperstown commenced operation as a public library free to residents of Cooperstown and students of the Cooperstown Central School.


When the Village Library joined the Four County Library System in 1964, its holdings and services became available with charge, to the residents of Broome, Chenango, and Delaware counties as well as the rest of Otsego County. The advantage of joining the Four County Library System was that it allowed for coordinated cataloging and book ordering, and interlibrary loan services.


In contrast to its inauspicious start, the Cooperstown Library has survived and flourished for over  100 years are its present location. It was initially housed in one room in the Library Building, but in 1978, expanded across  the hall to include the Children’s Room, director’s office, Nancy Carpenter Dunn Room, and Richard Carr Reading Area. The Friends of the Village Library, a support  organization formed in 1972, supplied much of the financing for the expansion.


Today, the Library houses about 22,000 volumes that include over 1,300 sound recordings, 1,000 large print books. It also offers Internet searching, wireless access and a dedicate terminal to its online catalog.


The purpose of the library is well stated in the words of former librarian Nancy Dunn:


“To enable every citizen of any age to learn more about himself and his world, to read widely and deeply of the best the past has produced and freshest and best of today’s writing and thinking, as well as to provide him with rest and relaxations in a busy and tense world situation.”


By David Kent
Library Director
February 2007