Cazenovia’s first library opened in 1828, some 35 years after Cazenovia’s founding in a region that had once been Iroquois Indian territory. In that year merchant John Williams established a circulating library in his general store on the village’s main thoroughfare, Albany Street. Williams advertised his library in the Madison County Eagle in June of 1828: “The subscriber has established a circulating Library at his store, consisting of 200 vols. Miscellaneous works, embracing many of the standard English authors. New publications will be added to the library occasionally. Terms made known at the Library. Such circulating libraries, which lent books on a fee basis, had begun several centuries before in England and had spread across the American colonies by the beginning of the 18th century. A painting in the library’s collection of the village center on Albany Street shows Williams’ store in which his library was housed.

In 1886 a Cazenovia Library Society was formed, similar to the library companies that established and maintained libraries through membership and lending fees, and gifts: “The aim is not to start off with a rush and allow the project to die in a short time, but to build slowly and surely, that in years to come we may have as fine a library as any town of this size in Central New York.” Society president William Burr donated rooms above his office on Albany Street for the project. The library quickly outgrew this location.

Fittingly, John Williams’ 1830 Greek Revival house down the street from his store was purchased in 1890 by a well-known Cazenovia benefactor, Robert J. Hubbard, who donated it to the Society. The library was “thrown open to the public” in November 1890 and was fitted with “new bookcases, shelves and other conveniences of the most approved kind”. The circulation room, stacks and reading rooms were on the house’s ground floor, upstairs there was a room for natural history specimens, objects of local interest and many Egyptian artifacts, including a complete mummy and its case that Hubbard had purchased in Egypt on a Grand Tour in 1894. The library has served as an historical society and “community attic” for Cazenovia since its founding, and continues today in that function.

The Williams house comprised the community library’s total collection until 1996 when a modern two-story structure was attached to it to serve as the main working building. All circulation and book storage functions were moved to the new addition, and a number of features were added to serve local cultural and historical purposes. An exhibition gallery for local art connects the newer building to the old, and, on the original building’s ground floor, a local history room and three museum rooms were created for the library’s collection, including its Egyptian material; see the descriptions on this web site. Additionally, an archive room was added located on the ground floor of the new structure to house the Library’s precious local documents. The ground floor also contains a community room available for meetings on request by local organizations, easily accessible from the parking lot at the back of the building. The library also offers computer services with internet and Wi-Fi connections, and in the original house are two quiet reading rooms that retain their original 19th century interiors. Educational programs developed by the library are used by more than 1,000 school children each year (see additional information on this website.) The Museum is also visited by college students studying design and history.

The library serves a population of approximately 6,500 people, and is a member of the Mid-York Library System, which serves Madison, Oneida and Herkimer counties. The Mid-York system provides access not only to its own holdings but can also access many other library systems for books, CDs, DVDs, and resource materials.

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