For many, having access to a local public library is like having the keys to the world — a lifeline to knowledge and opportunity. The history of public libraries in the United States is filled with stories of visionaries, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, architects, local boosters, legislators, and concerned citizens. The driving force firmly established by the late 1800s was the idea that libraries should be available to the American public free of charge.

The leading industrialist and philanthropist of his time, Andrew Carnegie, had a vision to establish libraries in cities across the United States and in other parts of the world. He would design, build, and furnish a library if a municipal government agreed to provide a site for the library, to maintain it, and to staff it.

Through his efforts, Carnegie led the innovation in library philanthropy and distinctive architectural design, and his libraries not only provided the free circulation of books, magazines, and newspapers, but also provided classroom space for teaching and research, public meeting spaces, and stations for organizations such as the Red Cross. In 1902 the Waterville Public Library benefited from Carnegie’s pioneering funding system, and for more than a century has continued to be a shining example of a successful private / public partnership.

The mission of the Waterville Public Library is to empower people and strengthen communities through the sharing of stories and knowledge. Through its many unique programs, our award-winning library serves hundreds of people a day, thousands a week, and tens of thousands a year, and it has grown to be a cornerstone of our community, just as the public library innovators of the 18th and 19th centuries had envisioned.

Please support our public library and its dedicated staff as they bring the best in library services to our community.

 

Bill Layton

Waterville

(The writer is a member of the library’s board of trustees.)

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