Patchogue-Medford Library History

  • 1883 - 1884 – Patchogue Library Association transferred its accumulated 475-book collection to a rented room in the John Roe Smith Block (the white building on the left).  Patchogue Library was housed in a room in Floyd Overton’s Shoe Store (which rented space in the Block), at today's 32 W. Main Street, Patchogue, NY. (south side of the street).  It opened to the public in August 1883.  Overton had taken on the job of "Librarian" at his wife's insistence.
    Patchogue Bank (shown on the right side of the photograph) succeeded the Patchogue and Suffolk County Bank, at the same location, after the latter failed in 1884.  Edward S. Peck, the latter bank's CEO, was nearly lynched, then was saved from a suicide attempt.  Peck had been a Library board member, rerscued both times, then grilled by fellow board members, before he and his wife left town penniless.  The Patchogue Bank's 1st CEO was none other than Floyd Overton, who had unceremoniously evicted the Library, after his young wife's untimely recent death.
    The John Roe Smith Block would be the 1st (1883-84), 3rd , and 6th home of the Association Library, and 1st home of the Public Library. The building still stands today, and is home to the Hofbrau Muchen Bierhaus Restaurant

  • On June 12, 1883, the organizational meeting creating the Patchogue Library Association, was held in this building, then the home of John Joseph Craven, who would become its President, and remain so until his death, 10 years later.   The house stood on a large property at Main Street and Medford Avenue (Route 112).  Dr. Craven was an inventor, had commanded several Federal medical departments during the Civil War, and been Jefferson Davis' prison doctor at Fort Monroe, and had written an international best seller about his experiences there.  The house pictured had earlier been the home of John S. Havens, Supervisor of Brookhaven Town during the Civil War, also owner of what would later become Shands (today's Brickhouse Brewery).  The pictured home would later be owned by the Canfield-Tuthill family (of newspaper fame), and serve as the local USO during WWI, then the home of the Elks (BPOE), before it was torn down in the 1990's. 

  • 1891 – November 1896 – The Library was removed to a side room in the new George M. Ackerly Block, a Music Store & Hall, on the West side of South Ocean Avenue, about where the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame Building is presently located.  

  • November 1896 – Mid-November 1899 – Jesse C. Mills, longtime Board Member and principal agent of the New Lyceum on Lake Street proposed the Library be moved here, covering its initial year’s rent, and gaining the library a reduced rental rate.  George M. Ackerly provided the free very part-time services of a clerk on Saturdays.  Today’s Lake Street Apartments, just West of Reese’s 1900, on the North side of Lake Street, was previously an asbestos factory, prior to that, the New Lyceum (village show place) and previous to that, the original location of Patchogue’s Congregational Church (which was sold in 1891, and moved it its present E. Main St. Location.).  The Library was in the Left Front room.

  • Architect's conception of the 1958 Carnegie Library Addition, then quite modern, featuring a lot of glass frntage, admitting much light during the day, in a split level arrangement.  This was in stark contrast to the more traditional architecture of the original section, to the right, which had undergone a series of patchwork repairs over the past half century.  By 1958, in the wake of the postwar baby boom and growth of suburbia, and demand from residents, expansion of the collection and services, and pressure from nearby Medford to extend services led to a contractual service arrangement, in 1950.  The size of the population served and space limits within the library, already tight before WWII, eventually led to this Addition.

  • March 4, 1908 – 1981 – The Carnegie Library Building (dedicated on the former date), was the first building in which the collection was housed that was architecturally designed to be a library.  It became the 1st home spacious and stable enough to permit library collection and services to properly develop.  The land was donated to the Trustees outright, by Edwin Bailey, Sr., who died two months short of its completion.  His generosity, and Andrew Carnegie’s final yea, permitted the village one of the few such libraries in the Nassau-Suffolk region.   By the 1930’s the library, despite repeated partial renovations, space reconfigurations, and stopgap cost-saving maintenance measures, and continual weeding of the collection to make room for new materials, had run out of space.  It became more even cramped, as measures to either expand or move the library to a larger property or building were rejected.  Heating and lighting systems did not keep pace with the times, but improvements were made.  The post-WWII housing and population boom placed additional public pressure on the library to expand its collection and services preferably at no or little public expense.  When the service area population (and demand for the same materials) was effectively doubled by inclusion of Medford (in 1951), it soon became obvious that either a larger library or a library expansion was needed.  Moving to a new, modern facility was disapproved, and an on-site expansion was eventually approved.  However, it was scaled back to permit public passage, the result being that allowance was made for the existing collection to be housed, with no room for growth.   The Library having expanded inadequately only once, in 1957, soon completely outgrew its confines, as population growth and public demands for variety continued to expand.  In 1963, the Suffolk Cooperative Library System was spun off in its basement.  Having become (along with Huntington Public Library) a state-designated central library, in 1968, and later sole central library for Suffolk County in 1979, received state funds to expand its collections, and provide services to Suffolk County, of which Patchogue-Medford residents were the first and prime recipients.   During its final decades in the Carnegie building, the library saw introduction of the electric typewriter, photocopier, microfilm and microform publications, and the first rumblings of the microcomputer.  It went from a book-based to a multi-media collection.  Children’s and Young Adult Services were introduced, Adult services expanded.  One of the finest reference collections in Suffolk County was built and maintained (as it is today).  Generations of librarians across the county looked to Patchogue(-Medford) as a model and were trained by its staff, and this continues to this day.

  • February 22, 1981 – Present – The Library moved to East Main Street into a reconfigured former W.T. Grant Store & Warehouse, not originally designed to serve as a library.  Here (below) the Computer & Internet revolutions took place in earnest, and propelled a whole new line of electronic services, still being expanded and developed daily.  The tradition of county leadership has been maintained in the public library field.  Specialized services for patrons have steadily expanded, as has the collection (which is a rich, varied and well-selected one), to the point at which the space situation is similar to that experienced in the latter days of the Carnegie Library.  About half the collection must be kept in storage for lack of space in the public area, despite constant and careful weeding.  Storage space has run out, despite creative repeated quick fixes.  Population pressure and public demand for more materials in all available forms and formats continue to ensure rapid collection growth, beyond present means to house it.  Demand for new services in ever-greater variety stretches available staff time, productivity, and creativity, efficiency, while requiring space to house ever-newer equipment and computer-related services, while trying to conserve limited funds for all that is asked and required.  Who can say where the challenges of the future will lead, what new need will be felt by the public today, tomorrow, or down the line a few years, a decade or more?  But, the Patchogue Library, then the Patchogue-Medford Library have been here—wherever it moved—starting as an association library in 1883, then state chartered, as a public library, since 1900, serving its communities & then, also its county (since the 1920’s), from generation to generation, a commitment of time.

  • This restaurant placemat was designed for the Library Centennial in 2000, to show the movements of the Library around the village of Patchogue, most of which took place between 1883-1908, when the Carnegie building became the first permanent (non-rented) home of the Library.  Here are the locations: 1883-84 Floyd A. Overton's shoe store; 1884-85 George M. Ackerly's stationery store; 1885-91 J.L. Overton's shoe store (Floyd had become a local bank president); 1891-1896 George M. Ackerly's music store; 1896-1899  New Lyceum (also housed a 500-seat theater, fire department, gym, and NYS judge's quarters); 1899-1902  John Roe Smith Block (same building as the Overtons' shoe store) [1899-1900 Sorosis' demonstration public library; 1900 Patchogue Library chartered as a public library]; 1902-08 George M. Ackerly's music store; 1908-1981 Carnegie Library (built on land donated by Edwin Bailey I) [1930's Librarian Alma Custead is founder and 1st President of  Suffolk County Library Association; 1967 Suffolk Cooperative Library System commences operations in the Library's basement; 1951 Service is extended to Medford residents; 1973 Name is changed by charter amendment to Patchogue-Medford Library]  1981-Present Library moves into former W.T. Grant building, at its present location, 54-60 East Main Street [2000 Library celebrates its 100th year of service; 1993-2014 Neighborhood Center, Eagle Elementary School, Medford, NY;  2010  Library receives National Medal for Museum and Library Service].  One additional move took place, after this map was created, in 2013, when the Carnegie Library was moved to its present location on West Main St.   -- MHR 

The Patchogue-Medford Library had its origin in the Patchogue Library Association, founded on June 12, 1883.  The first Patchogue Library opened its door(s), as a room in a shoe store, that August, with the store owner designated the "librarian".  The Library moved about the village, to and from rented rooms, until 1900, when it was temporarily taken over (with permission of its Board) by the Patchogue Sorosis (new local chapter of a national  organization, that creatively promoted women's suffrage).  Sorosis revived and ran it as a demonstration public library, until at a school district board meeting (August 1900), a public vote was passed to re-found and fund it as a public library, and elect a 5-member Board of Trustees. Patchogue Library applied for, was inspected, and received its New York State Charter in December 1900, later negotiated for a Carnegie Library, 1903-08 (dedicated in March 1908).  Suffolk County Library Association and Suffolk Cooperative Library System both had their origins at Patchogue Medford Library.  The Library extended its services to Medford residents in 1950, underwent and expansion in 1958, and changed its name to Patchogue-Medford Library in 1973 (by charter amendment, after the school district changed its name).  In 1978, Patchogue-Medford Library became the sole State-designated Central Library for Suffolk County. Having outgrown its facilities, the Library moved to its present location (formerly a W.T. Grant store, at 54-60 E. Main Street) in January 1981, while the Carnegie building housed part of Briarcliffe College, until the College moved to the site of the former lace mill complex.  In 2010, Patchogue-Medford Library received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, awarded at the White House, by the First Lady. The Library has received annual national recognition an All-Star Library, one of the nation's top Libraries, since 2011, as published in the American Library Association's Library Journal.  The abandoned Carnegie building was saved thanks to the efforts of a local grassroots association, and was awarded to the Patchogue-Medford Library.  It was carefully moved to its present location on West Main Street, in 2012, was rededicated and opened in 2016, Patchogue-Medford Library's Young Adult Department is located there, and the basement features collections and changing exhibits of the Greater Patchogue Historical Society.  The ground-level floor of the Main Library on East Main Street is currently undergoing some remodeling, as a result.

► A Walking Tour of Patchogue-Medford Library History  (Celia M. Hastings Local History Room, June 2017, rev. Sept. 2017)

► A WALKING TOUR OF PATCHOGUE-MEDFORD LIBRARY HISTORY , rev. ed.,MOBILE DEVICE VERSION, with clickable map (Celia M. Hastings Local History Room, 9/22/17)

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America's All-Star Libraries  

  • Top libraries in the U.S., designated annually by the American Library Association, in early November, in an issue of  Library Journal. Patchogue-Medford Library has been designated an All-Star Library since 2011: 
  • Lyons, Ray & Keith Curry Lance.  "LJ Index 2016:  The All-Stars, State-by-State" (Library Journal, November 1, 2016) -- Patchogue-Medford Library receives 4 stars for service to its communities, Suffolk County, LI, and NYS, as one of America's Top Libraries.    
  • Lyons, Ray & Keith Curry Lance. "New York" (LJ Index 2015:  All the Stars, State-by-State).  (Library Journal, November 2, 2015) -- Patchogue-Medford Library shines again for its communities, Long Island, and New York State, as one of America's Top Libraries
  • Lyons, Ray & Keith Curry Lance. "LJ Index 2014:  All the Stars, State-by-State."  (Library Journal, November 3, 2014)  -- Patchogue-Medford Library shines again for its communities, Long Island, and New York State, as one of America's Top Libraries -- click on the New York State on the map, scroll down to the NYS listings
  • Lyons, Ray & Keith Curry Lance.  "LJ Index 2013:  All the Stars, State-by-State."  (Library Journal, November 1, 2013) -- Patchogue-Medford Library shines again for its communities, Long Island, and New York State, as one of America's Top Libraries -- click on the New York State on the map, scroll down to the NYS listings
  •  Sorrentino, Michael.  "Pat-Med Library Receives American Star" (Patchogue PatchNovember 12, 2013)
  •   Lyons, Ray & Keith Curry Lance.  "LJ Index, 2012:  2012 Stars, State by State" (Managing Libraries.  LJ Index of Public Library Service.  Class of 2012Library Journal, November 8, 2012) -- Patchogue-Medford Library is again listed among America's, New York State's, and Long Island's Top Libraries -- click on the map of NYS, or scroll down to the NYS listings
  •   Lyons, Ray & Keith Curry Lance.  "All the Stars, State by State" (Managing Libraries.  LJ Index of Public Library Service.  Class of 2011)  Library Journal, November 1, 2011 -- click on the map of New York State, or scroll down to the NYS entriies


        See also   PML's  Patchogue-Medford Area History web page

                        PML Centennial publications, throught this web page

--  Historic Images - General

  • Library History [set of historic and commemorative PML images]  (Patchogue-Medford Area Historic Images @; prepared by Patchogue-Medford Library.  Celia M. Hastings Local History Room)

--  Historic Images -- Library Buildings, 1883-Present

  •  John Roe Smith Block (to right of Central Hotel) -- Housed the association library, 1883-841884/85-1890/91, the demonstration public library, 1899-1900, and state-chartered public library 1900-1902 -- located on the south side of W. Main Street.  Note also:  the Patchogue and Suffolk County Bank, formerly the Patchogue Bank (of Edward S. Peck, which failed in 1884; seriously complicating library business that year), just to the right of the Library  
  • George M. Ackerly Block -- housed the association library 1891-96and later the public library1902-08 -- and was located on the west side of South Ocean Avenue, Patchogue 
  • The New Lyceum -- housed the association library, at street level, on its left (or west) side, 1896-1899 -- and was located on Lake Street, Patchogue, where the Lake Apartments are today (just west of Reese's 1900).   Note:  The Old Lyceum, which started as the Clinton Roller Rink, was located on South Ocean Avenue.  Both Old and New Lyceums were used for library fundraising events, usually involving concerts, shows or lectures.
  •  The Room that Held the Library, in the New Lyceum, 1896-99
  •  The Carnegie Library - Housed Patchogue Library, and after the 1973 formal name change, Patchogue-Medford Library, 1908-1981.  Note:  This was the first building in Patchogue to be completely dedicated to a public library.  It took some stiff negotiations to get it, launched separately by both Patchogue Village and the Library Board, which also took some diplomatic sorting, and a few ruffled feathers, soon forgotten.  Located at 10 Lake Street, on land donated in 1904 by Edwin Bailey, Sr., it housed the Library that took the first active role in coalescing the Suffolk County, N.Y. library community in the 1920's and 1930's, into a Suffolk County Library Association (1939-Present), coordinated the first County-wide Library [Union] Catalog (1942).  Suffolk Cooperative Library System (1961), commenced operations in its basement, before moving to 15 Main St. (a former Nabisco factory), then to its present Bellport location; whose first Director, Walter Curley, in 1963, created the impetus for the countywide Public Library Director's Association (1968-Present).  Patchogue Library became the NYS-designated Co-Central Library for the County, then sole Central Library (1978).   The building is one of 3 or 4 Carnegie Libraries to ever have been built in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, N.Y.  (i.e., Long Island, proper).   Moved to its new W. Main St. location in 2012, it has since then been beautifully restored, and this landmark building is now once more open to the public.  Its main level is now home to Patchogue-Medford Library Youth Services.  Its basement houses collections and displays of the Greater Patchogue Historical Society
  •  Patchogue-Medford Library1981-Present, located at 54-60 East Main St., Patchogue. - This library has seen one wave after another of the electonic revolution, expansion and variations of resources and services, the Library's centennial in 2000, renovation and modernization of the facilities, and efforts to build and knit together a community when it reached a crisis point, winning national recognition in 2011 and 2012, and again currently.   PML has continued to receive national recognition, annually, by the American Library Association, as one of America's All-Star Libraries.

Patchogue-Medford Library -- General Histories

--  Selected Historic Images  (PML Digital Photo Archive)

  • John Joseph Craven's Home - Where the organizational meeting of the Patchogue Library Association met, and elected officers, on June 12, 1883
  • John Joseph Craven [as he appeared in 1863], first President of the Patchogue Library Association
  • George D. Gerard, first vice-president of Patchogue Library Association
  • Floyd A. Overton - first acting librarian for the Patchogue Library Association (1883) - later (1884), became Cashier (i.e., CEO) of the new Patchogue Bank
  • Jesse C. Mills -- A principal shareholder in the New Lyceum, as well as a Member of the Patchogue Library Association Board of Trustees, he was able to offer the Library a temporary home in the Lyceum, at a lower rental rate than it had previously been paying.  He later (1899) made the formal proposal to the Library Board that the Patchofue Sorosis take over the Library collection for a year, run it as a demonstration public library, and to take its support as a public library to a vote,  If the vote had failed, the Library and its collection would have reverted to Patchogue Library Association. 

Patchogue Library - History, 1900-1914

See also General section (above)

--  Carnegie Library -- Historic Images, 1908-1914  (PML Digital Photo Archive):


Patchogue Library / Patchogue-Medford Library - History, 1914-1945

Note:  Medford briefly had a public library, on the initiative of the local Boy and Girl Scouts, 1927-[1929], that dashed on the rocks of the Great Depression, as funding for scouting evaporated.



Patchogue Library / Patchogue-Medford Library - History, 1946-Present

Note:  Patchogue Library first extended its services (by contract), to Medford residents in 1950, and in 1973, following the school district's lead, changed its name to The Patchogue-Medford Library, by state charter amendment.  (Full services were extended to Medford residents without need of a separate contract.)