Library History - Capsule

Capsule History of the Library:

Patchogue Library (Association) was created on June 12, 1883.  Its first President was John J. Craven (in 1865, Jefferson Davis’ prison doctor).  Due to funding shortfalls, the 1 to 2 room Library moved to 7 locations, prior to its going public on August 7, 1900, and receiving its state charter on December 20, 1900.  1903-1908 saw negotiations with Andrew Carnegie, to help fund a more permanent building. On March 4, 1908, Patchogue’s Carnegie Library (then at 10 Lake Street), was dedicated, where the library served its community until 1981.  In the 1920’s and 1930’s Alma Custead’s dynamic leadership proved crucial to the establishment of a Suffolk County Library Association, which is still active today (and part of New York Library Association).  The first countywide (union) catalog was housed at the Library, in 1947.  In 1951, services were extended, by contract, to Medford residents.  The Library building was expanded in 1958.  In 1963, Suffolk Cooperative Library System has its origin at Patchogue Library. In 1966, Patchogue Library became one of two State-designated Central Libraries for Suffolk County, NY.  In 1973, when the local school district changed its name to Patchogue-Medford, the Library followed suit, by charter amendment, and Medford residents officially became part of the library district.  Later in the 1970’s, PML became sole State-designated Central Library for Suffolk County, N.Y.  On January 1981, a converted W.T. Grant store at 54-60 Main Street, was dedicated, as the new Library building, and the old building passed to Briarcliffe College.  The Library celebrated its charter centennial in 2000, and in 2011 received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor, and has annually, since then, received designation as a Star Library, by the American Library Association.  In 2012, the Carnegie Library building, having been vacated for some years, was awarded, by the Village of Patchogue, to Patchogue-Medford Library, and moved to west Main Street. The Carnegie Library’s main level presently houses PML’s Young Adult Department, and the basement is home to the collections of the Greater Patchogue Historical Society. Following an earlier dedication, the Carnegie Building opened to the public on October 17, 2016.  In 2018, approval for a new Library Branch, located in Medford, was obtained, and planning for the new Branch, and an exciting new chapter in the Library's history, began.  And construction began in April, 2022, with ground-breaking on the morning of April 9.  All three Libraries serve the greater Patchogue.


More Library History:

     On June 12, 1883Patchogue Library Association was formed.  Its President, John Joseph Craven, had been Jefferson Davis' prison doctor, and had written an international best seller on the subject. Fundraising to buy books and rent a library room would occupy most of the Association’s time, during its 17-year existence.  In August 1883, the library opened with 635 books in a side room of Floyd A. Overton’s shoe store (on West Main St.).  Mr. Overton became "librarian", by default.  Over its life, the fledgling Patchogue Library was moved from one storefront to another (from shoe store, to stationery store, back to the shoe store, to music store, to the New Lyceum Theater on the North side of Lake Street, back again to a room in its original building, with the designated librarian generally changing with the building.  None of these locations was a particularly quiet place.  As fundraising remained a chronic problem, the collection languished, its home remaining a very temporary arrangement.

     In Fall 1899, Sorosis, a national women’s suffrage organization, formed a Patchogue Chapter, lead by Elizabeth Mott (Mrs. Wilmot) Smith, who asked the Library Board for, and received, control of the library collection, for 1 year, moved it into a room in their club building (on W. Main St.).  Under the care of the Patchogue Sorosis, a 1500-book demonstration public library was created, and opened for public use.  It proved popular.  Efforts were launched to make the library a regularly-funded local public institution.  In August 1900, at a school district board meeting, a public vote established a new Patchogue Library, and elected its first Board of Trustees.  The Board met the next day, elected officers, Elizabeth Mott Smith becoming its first President, and applied for a New York State Charter.  Following inspection and approval of the collection and its management arrangements by the State Library, then headed by Melvil Dewey, the New York State Board of Regents granted Patchogue Library a State Charter of incorporation, in December 1900.
      Support for and interest in the Library continued to grow, and correspondence began in 1902 with Andrew Carnegie, mainly through his private secretary, James Bertram, to secure a grant for a permanent home for a Carnegie Library (a rarity in the Nassau-Suffolk area) for Patchogue.  In 1904, when negotiations stalled over the library Board's lack of a property on which to situate a building, Edwin Bailey Sr. (owner of a major Patchogue-based South Shore lumber concern) stepped in, donating land at 10 Lake Street, where his original carpentry shop once stood.  An architect William Van Pelt, and local construction firm were secured.  Negotiations progressed. At length, Carnegie, requiring (as he normally did), and the village voting and approving permanent increase in annual support, the Library Board was awarded $10,000, and construction began in 1907.  Construction cost overages, drew stormy refusals from Bertram and Carnegie, for a supplemental grant request of $5,000, though it was eventually secured, with further assurances, after additional wrangling, and another local vote.  On March 4, 1908 Patchogue's Carnegie Library was dedicated with speeches and tours, its first permanent home, where it would remain for the next 73 years.  It was frequently featured on local postcards, and its use, collections, and range of services steadily climbed.  One of its greatest directors, Alma Custead, Librarian 1914-45, expanded its adult and children's collections and services, built a quality reference collection, wrote bibliographies for the local newspapers on timely topics of the day, began services to young adults when it was still natioanlly considered experimental, and brought together librarians from around the County, in the late 1920's and early 1930's to found Suffolk County Library Association.  She served as its first president, and launched state and countywide library conferences, held in Patchogue, which supported local businesses.  Mrs. Custead headed a local book drive to support American troops in WWI, and a County book drive in WWII.   In the Great Depression and road to WWII the library featured business, self help, job-related books and works on the growing crisis in international affairs. During WWII, she created the first countywide Union Catalog (multiple library holdings) in Suffolk, and saw to it that it was based it at Patchogue Library.  She established the library as a center of county library affairs, setting the stage for future developments.  She also supervised much needed repairs to the library.
      During the post-war building and baby boom, the community's population explosion meant that the requirements of its Library continued to grow.  In 1951 service was officially extended to Medford residents.  Later the building was expanded.  In 1961,Suffolk Cooperative Library System was created, commencing its services to County libraries, from the Patchogue Library basement, later moving to the Nabisco factory (on Main St.), then to its present location, in Bellport.  When the two local school districts were combined, changing their name, the Library, which served the same area, followed suit, officially becoming Patchogue-Medford Library, by state charter amendment, in 1973.  In 1978, Patchogue-Medford Library became the sole New York State-designated Central Library for Suffolk County.  In 1981 the Library moved to its current location on East Main Street, Patchogue to better accommodate its growing collections and services. The nature and range of electronic resources and services have been steadily expanding and changing, ever since the computer revolution of the 1980's. By 1993, the Neighborhood Center was opened at the Eagle Elementary School in order to offer local service to the residents of Medford.  In 2000, the Library celebrated its first 100 years under State Charter.  Since at least the 1920's, the Library has remained a recognized leader in library service in Suffolk County.  It has secured many benefits and innovative services to its community through a variety of grants, over many decades.  Its is known for the quality of its Reference collection, programs, and for its subject specialists, who represent a variety of fields, and serve the Patchogue-Medford community and County librarians. The range of PML's resources, programs, and services to various age groups, to the well-served and underserved alike, continues to expand.