The Westerly library sits proudly in downtown Westerly in the center of our great community with a rich history that for many is a total mystery. In this digitized age, many libraries struggle to keep their doors open, but stepping into Westerly Libary you realize libraries offer so much more than just books. Libraries are vital public spaces that provide unrestricted access to literature, music, film, news and an electronic portal to the world. So let’s take look at the history of our library.
In 1892, The Memorial and Library Association was created to recognized and honor the local soldiers and volunteers who had served during the Civil War. Through the generosity of Steven Wilcox’s donation of the land and $25,000 (matched by the community), allowed the Longstaff & Hurd (architects from Bridgeport, CT) designed building to break ground.
On August 15, 1894, the Westerly Public Libary opened its doors. At the time the building housed 5,000 books, a bowling alley, a gymnasium, art gallery, museum and meeting space for the Grand Army of The Republic (Budlong Post, No. 18). The library’s mission is:
“The mission of the Memorial and Libary Association is to strengthen the community and enrich lives by stimulating the intellect and sparking imagination through access to literature, information, nature, and the arts.”
And 126 years later our library is still striving to provide our community access to all the information the world has to offer. Gone are the days of libraries strictly dealing with words and ideas on paper medium. The Westerly library has and will continue to evolve to expand its offerings to stay in step with the times. The library now offers 183,000 bound items as well as access to video, music, and computers. Westerly is also a member of Ocean State Libraries, a statewide program that allows library cardholders access to request items from all other participating libraries and have these items delivered to Westerly! This expands cardholder’s access to millions of items statewide! In addition to this program, the library also has several computers stations available for the public that access numerous online databases. So you see, the library really is your window to the world!