Madison Public Library is one of many libraries across the country built with funds from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation around the turn of the 20th century. Dedicated on January 2, 1907, Madison Public Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 5, 1989.
The idea of the formation and the founding of a public library in Madison originated with some ten or fifteen young ladies known as the "Ladies' Non-Sectarian Club" which was formed in 1885. Among its members were Ruth Manter, Alice Blake, Jennie Knowlton, Emma Manter, Addie Smith, Mable Simonds, Fannie Perkins, Ada Towne, Emma Heald, Nellie Moore and Gertrude Kent. On May 11, 1886, the Madison Library Association was formed.
The first library was opened on Saturday, April 30, 1887 in a room on the second floor of the Towne Block, near the railroad crossing, and the first librarian, Miss Jennie Knowlton, reported the number of books in the library as being 461.
The library has had four different homes before reaching its final destination. It remained for some years in the Town Block, and when Charles O. Small opened a law office over T.H. Spear's tin shop, he gave use of an alcove for the books of the library. After the burning of the shop, the library occupied space in the new building on the same site erected by Dr. Hunnewell and Simon Stone. It remained there until it moved to the Blackwell Block in January of 1903, where it remained until the construction was complete on the new library, the octagonal building we have to this day.
The idea to ask Andrew Carnegie for the money for a new library originated with Jennie Knowlton Small, the librarian at the time.
In 1905 Mr. Carnegie agreed to donate $8,000 for a free public library with $800 to be raised annually for its maintenance, and so the library plans began.
The octagonal building, designed by Clifton S. Humphreys, was constructed in the heart of town, on the corner of Old Point Avenue and Pleasant Street. It was completed in 1906, and ready for occupancy in January, 1907.
The dedicatory exercises of the new library building were held on Wednesday, January 2, 1907. During the presentation, it was stated that the giving should not end here, but that each and every citizen should feel it a pleasure to give their time and enthusiasm to further the cause, and if, at any time, they should feel a lack of interest, the memory of the untiring zeal of the late Mrs. Jennie Knowlton Small (who passed away February 1, 1906) should rekindle their enthusiasm and make it a sacred duty to perpetuate the work.
The conditions of Mr. Carnegie having been complied with, the result of which we still marvel today, is a modern building of use and beauty far exceeding the wildest dreams of those young people who made its humble beginnings.
The number of volumes in the library had increased from the original 461 in 1887 to about 2000 when the library opened in 1907. Today, we have recorded, through barcoding, an accurate count of 16,397 volumes.
Two well-equipped, attractive reading rooms and a stack room with an interesting, original glass floor occupy the first floor of the building. A magnificant dome and balcony that welcomed patrons, was hidden by a false ceiling which was added in 1942 to conserve heat due to fuel rations during WWII.
As the library neared its 100th birthday, grants were obtained for the replacement of 14 main floor windows and the Town alloted funds for the dome restoration and ceiling removal. The restoration was completed in November, 2006.
An Open House and 100th birthday celebration was held on December 6, 2006. We welcome you to come visit Madison Public Library.