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Scoville Memorial Library celebrates facility centennial: the oldest municipally-supported library in U.S. moves into the computer age with Unicorn

Press Release: SIRSI Corporation [August 24, 1995]

Copyright (c) 1995 SIRSI Corporation

Huntsville, Alabama (August 24, 1995). The Scoville Memorial Library, located in Salisbury, Connecticut, recently commemorated its long history at a centennial celebration, during which the library's new Unicorn system was unveiled.

The library collection began in 1771, when Richard Smith, owner of a local blast furnace, used community contributions to buy 200 books in London. Patrons could borrow and return books on the third Monday of every third month. Fees were collected for damages, the most common being "greasing" by wax dripped from the candles by which the patrons read.

In 1803, Caleb Bingham, born in Salisbury and a trustee of the Boston Public Library, donated 150 children's books to the collection. This collection became the first library in the United States open to the public without charge.

On April 9, 1810, a Salisbury town meeting voted to authorize the "selectmen draw upon the town treasurer for the sum of one hundred dollars" to purchase more books for the collection, making the library the first publicly supported free town library in the United States. Still, the collection had no official home until 1889, when it was moved to the Town Hall.

At his death, Jonathan Scoville, a Salisbury resident who had recognized the need for a permanent library facility, left $12,000 for the building of a library in the center of town. On April 6, 1892, the Scoville Memorial Library Association was established and incorporated, and a librarian was appointed. The library collection was 4,382 volumes.

On July 11, 1895, the Scoville Memorial Library opened its new building to the public. The library was enthusiastically received by the community and quickly became the center of Salisbury's cultural life, hosting readings, lectures, musicales, and even a ball.

One century later, the library continues to offer a wide variety of services to the community. In addition to traditional functions, the library serves as a meeting-place for community groups and sponsors numerous programs for children, including Story Hour for toddlers, after-school programs for older children, and sleep-overs. The library now serves 4,000 residents of Salisbury with a collection of over 25,000 books.

On July 15, 1995, the library staff and Board of Trustees, along with the people of Salisbury, gathered to recognize and celebrate the library's long history. Coinciding with the centennial, the Scoville Memorial Library installed Unicorn, giving its patrons greater access to resources in the library and throughout the world. Anthony Ellsworth Scoville, Honorary Library Trustee, said, "With the inauguration of its computer catalog and Internet access system this month, the Scoville Library begins a new stage in its history. The library becomes our town's portal to the worldwide information community."

Today, SIRSI's systems serve hundreds of libraries and information centers with databases from a few thousand to millions of titles. Their integrated library system networks are installed in academic, public, K-12, law, medical, government and corporate libraries around the world. SIRSI operations are based worldwide and sell extensively in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. For more information contact SIRSI at 689 Discovery Drive, Huntsville, AL 35806. Phone: (800) 242-2233, Fax: (205) 922-9818. Visit SIRSI's Home Page at:

View Citation
Publication Year:1995
Type of Material:Press Release
Language English
Issue:August 24, 1995
Publisher:SIRSI Corporation
Place of Publication:Huntsville, AL
Company: SIRSI Corporation
Products: Unicorn
Libraries: Scoville Memorial Library
Online access:
Record Number:6428
Last Update:2012-12-29 14:06:47
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00