The Milford Public Library will join libraries and friends of libraries across the nation next week to celebrate National Library Week. Adults and children are invited to come join the fun as special events are scheduled for each day of the week. National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. First sponsored in 1958, April 12 to 18 this year is a time to celebrate the contributions of the nation’s libraries and librarians. The week also promotes library use and support. All types of libraries including school, public, academic and special participate.
The beautiful, state-of-the-art Milford Public Library is a testament to the dedication and support of an entire community who have long been dedicated to providing children and adults with reading opportunities in the city for more than 130 years. In May 1882, the Milford Library Association was organized and the library consisted of a single room in the second floor of the Grange Hall. The first librarian, Mrs. Hettie Davis, earned $30 a year. The purchase of stock permitted citizens to borrow books, but financial problems caused the closing of the library in 1911.
In 1912, Mrs. Edwin Brown opened Mrs. Brown’s Boys and Girl’s Library at 106 N.W. Front Street. To get to the library, visitors travelled through the arched lattice trellis and down a path to a side door, where Mrs. Brown sat at a table by the window, making a record of each book loan.
Mrs. Brown had very strict rules about library books. She required all children to have clean hands when they handled books and that they cover the borrowed book with brown paper to keep the covers presentable. She instructed children how books were to be handled. Mrs. Brown regularly conducted story hours for children from 1912 until 1921. When Mrs. Brown’s home sold, she requested that rooms in the new community building under construction be reserved for the library. This community building also housed the fire department, and a room on the second floor was designated for the library.
The first officers elected to the Milford Free Public Library on May 31, 1926 were Mrs. Charles Prettyman, President; Mrs. Lena Short, Vice-President; Mrs. Elizabeth Riggs, Secretary; Mr. Daniel Hirsch, Treasurer; Mr. Edwin P. Messick, Auditor and Miss Edna Banks was the librarian. The original library held the book collection of Mrs. Brown as well as that of Mrs. Brown’s cousin, Mrs. George Adkins.
Miss Edith Simpson was appointed Assistant Librarian in 1930 and she became librarian in 1931. The library grew significantly under Miss Simpson, and Carlisle Fire Company gave a second room for use by the library in 1939.
Mr. Daniel Hirsch and Mr. John B. Smith both bequeathed money for the building of a new library building, and after the death of Mr. Smith’s daughter, his home was purchased as the site of the new building. For many years, the library was located at the corner of South Walnut Street and Maple Avenue, where Dr. Norman Steward’s dentist office now stands.
In 1993, supporters of the Milford Public Library dedicated a new, state-of-the-art facility, and today, the library overlooks the Mispillion Riverwalk Park and houses more than 40,000 items. The building includes meeting rooms, internet access and an outdoor amphitheater overlooking the river where outside concerts, festivals and Christmas caroling take place. The library also offers a large selection of books related to the history of Milford and Delaware.
In May 2011 the Milford Public Library held its Grand Opening to celebrate the completion of the newly constructed facility. Over five years, donations have poured in from around the Milford community of all shapes and sizes. The new children’s wing, which was donated to the library by the Quinn family, brings educational resources to community children with a new story time area, a summer reading program and a computer area with software that includes fun instructional programming.
The Milford Library is located at 11 S.E. Front Street and hopes to serve as the anchor to help with the revitalization effort downtown. With a Milford library card a patron also has access to all materials in all libraries throughout the State of Delaware, including universities, online databases and downloadable e-books and audio books. For more information on the Milford Public Library visit www.milfordpubliclibrary.org or contact the library at 302-422-8996.