The James V. Brown Library opened in June 1907 and was a bequest to the city from lumber baron and philanthropist James VanDuzee Brown who died on December 8, 1904, at age 78. Already a widower with no children, Brown had dreamt for years of giving Williamsport a free, public library. The idea for the library was suggested by his late wife, Carile Brown.
In his will James V. Brown bequeathed $400,000 to the city of Williamsport, and stipulated that $140,000 be used to erect and endow a public library at the corner of Fourth and State Streets for the use of the people of Williamsport and nearby communities.
His wishes also included how the library should be governed, a plan that is still followed today. Management of the library would be under the control of a nine-member board of trustees consisting of: the Mayor of Williamsport; the Rector of Christ Episcopal Church (where Brown was a member), the Superintendent of Williamsport Schools, a representative of Williamsport City Council, and five other representatives of Williamsport or nearby vicinity.
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