Check this out: the history of the Webster Public Library

9 Jan

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine living in a town that does not have a public library. A public library is a vital part of any community, for all ages and for so many reasons. In particular, the services our Webster Public Library provides for our town can’t be overstated.

So it’s difficult to imagine a time when there wasn’t enough interest among the residents of our young town to support a public library. That fact alone led me to dig deeper into the history of our very own Webster Public Library for my January Webster History Bit. With significant assistance from Esther Dunn’s authoritative Webster Through the Years volume, this is what I found out:

The first Webster library was established in 1881 by a group called the Literary Society. Mary Jane Phillips kept the books in her home on Main St. in the village, just west of what is now the Cobblestone on Main restaurant. Society members, who paid $1.20 annual dues, were the only ones who could check out books.

The second town librarian was Mary Jane Andrews, who moved the books to her store on the south side of Main Street, just west of the four corners. In 1889, the library moved again, to 11 South Ave., in the building now occupied by B3 Beauty and Carl’s Pizza Kitchen. 

Soon afterwards, community support for a town library waned. In 1894, the library was disbanded, and the 1000 books were distributed among the board members. and for almost the next 30 years, Webster had no library at all

For almost the next 30 years the town of Webster had no library at all, until 1923, when the Monroe County Traveling Library was established. It traveled to 222 stops about every six weeks, mostly at schools but also crossroads or well-known shops. In Webster, the principal stations were at Dewitt and Bay roads, Vosburg and Lake roads, Forest Lawn, Nine Mile Point, Union Hill, Hard and Ridge roads, and West Webster.

Finally, in 1929 the first Webster public library was officially established at the new Webster High School (now Spry Middle School). It had 657 books, 265 borrowers and a circulation of 6,246. 

The library has moved several times since those early days, first to the Reitz Building on West Main (now Yesterday’s Muse Books), then to Webster Town Hall, to what is now the Town Court building at 1 Van Ingen Drive, and finally to its current location in Webster Plaza. It’s also grown – a lot. Today, the Webster Public Library has more than 260,000 items in its collection, 34,000 borrowers, and circulates about 334,000 items a year. 

So next time you have a chance — especially if you’ve never been there — stop by the Webster Public Library and show it some love. It’s come a long way.

The Webster Public Library is located at 980 Ridge Rd., in the back of Webster Plaza.

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(posted 1/9/2023)

2 Responses to “Check this out: the history of the Webster Public Library”

  1. Adam Traub January 10, 2023 at 8:44 am #

    Wonderful bit of history – thank you, Missy!

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