The history of a public library in Argyle began in the early 19th century. It was an idea that took hold in the hearts of a number of Argyle residents. People who loved to read and valued the printed word joined efforts to bring the pleasure of reading to their community.
Recorded certificates of incorporation for the purpose of creating public libraries indicate that in 1805 the intention existed to establish an Argyle Library at the home of Pelag Bragg. The home also served as a tavern, and stood at the corner of Main and Sheridan Streets, the present location of Stewart’s.
In 1823, a certificate of incorporation was issued to the Argyle Social Library to be housed at the home of Joseph Rouse. Historic records list Rouse’s home as an inn. It was located on the site of the former IGA store and parking lot.
At the turn of the 20th century, several reading circles were active in the town of Argyle. Books for one of these reading circles were kept at the home of Dr. Stillman on East Street in Argyle Village (the large house next to the former Grange Hall). Books were borrowed and returned informally. Other reading groups in the town operated in a similar manner.
By 1920, it became clear that the interest in reading could be better satisfied by establishing a library. The members of the Village Improvement Association were instrumental in this process, and the book collections of the reading groups became the basis for the library’s holdings.
The office of the late Dr. Sill became the first home of the Argyle Free Library. The provisional charter issued at that time became a permanent charter in 1974.
In 1927, Cora Breason Mott and Anna Breason Gilchrist donated to the Library Association in the building in which the library is presently housed. This is one of the oldest buildings in the village.
During the 1950s, Mrs. Ralph McGeoch appeared on the television program “Queen for a Day” to request assistance for the Argyle Library. Her efforts resulted in a new sign, drapes, and remodeling. It was completed in 1964.
In 1958, the library became a charter member of the Southern Adirondack Library System, better known as SALS.
By the 1990s, it was clear that more space was needed at the library. Construction on a new wing started in 1994 and was finished in 1995. A dedication of this new wing was held on June 11, 1995.
Over the years, Argyle Free Library has grown from one room, heated by a wood stove and lit be a kerosene lantern, into a fully automated library with children’s programs, a meeting space, and a computer area. Beyond the books on the shelves, the Argyle Free Library also has access to the holdings of 57 libraries! In addition, patrons of Argyle Free Library have access to thousands of eBooks and Audiobooks online.
Throughout its history, the Argyle Free Library’s steady growth has been the result of the community’s appreciation for the benefits of reading. The people of Argyle have always held a commitment to the idea that a strong community needs a vital public library. They have always demonstrated a willingness to work hard to achieve and sustain that goal.
Today, the future of libraries is not only a place to store books, but also a place to learn and connect with others. Libraries in the 21st century offer WiFi and public computers for patrons to explore all of the opportunities the Internet has to offer. Many offer makerspaces where patrons can learn new skills such as how to knit or code a raspberry pi. To keep up with these exciting changes, Argyle Free Library is again facing a need to expand so we can continue our tradition of offering the best and most up-to-date services we can to the community. Once again, as it has in the past, it will be turning to its community for support as it seeks to grow into this new century.
Argyle Free Library’s history of service to the community is its foundation. Its future is in your hands.