Saxton B. Little Free Library

319 Route 87
Columbia, CT 06237


Saxton B. Little Free Library provides and promotes excellent services, programs, and materials that inform, educate and enrich all citizens.

The Columbia Free Library opened its doors to townspeople on a chilly Friday, December 14, 1883, at 3:30 P.M. and again at 7:30 P.M. The Willimantic Chronicle reported "it may seem a long time to the waiting public to get the library in running order but the erection of the building by gratuitous labor necessitated its being done more slowly..." Citizens began campaigning for the library at a town meeting held on December 12, 1882. One year later, almost to the day, library officials kept their promise to open a free public library. According to Columbia Libraries 100th Anniversary 1883-1983 the long wait was rewarded. In the first 3 weeks of operation the Columbia Free Library circulated 285 volumes to 168 patrons serving roughly ¼ of the total population of Columbia, at that time a farming community. It cost $130.47 cash and 92 ¼ hours of "gratuitous labor" valued at $184 to construct the library. A wood burning stove provided heat and kerosene lamps provided light. Framed prints of Samson Occum, a Mohegan Indian trained at Moore's Indian Charity School, and a painting of Yosemite Valley graced the interior of the tiny 120 square foot library. In 1886 and again in 1890 shelves were added to the north and south walls. In 1899 floorboards were added to the attic space for the storage of unused books. By 1903 the building had reached its limits. It was sold at auction for $38, moved from the original site, and used again as a private residence.

A second larger library was built in 1903 and named Saxton B. Little Free Library after a prominent educator and generous benefactor of the library. This fine post and beam, architect designed library measured 2,025 square feet. By 1983 every inch of space in the 1903 building was used to house collections. Staff circulated 30,000 items that year in a building with no plumbing inside and no parking outside. The building was used for 80 years, and it was time to campaign for a new facility.

On Tuesday, November 12, 1985 the new Saxton B. Little Free Library opened to the public. This building, now used as the free public library of Columbia, measures 4800 square feet, cost ½ million to build and furnish, and houses collections of nearly 35,000 items. The previous owner of this completely remodeled farmhouse was Gladys Rice Soracchi, who served as Head Librarian from 1959 to 1975. Her mother, Lillian Rice, served as Head Librarian from 1908 to 1959. The present library features a well rounded core collection of fiction and nonfiction, books on cassette and cd, videos, large print books, music on CD, reference, periodicals and newspapers for all ages. In 2004 staff circulated 59,000 items to a population of 5,200 people. The building is handicapped accessible. The Library is automated, having an online catalog and a network of 15 computers linked to the Internet through a high-speed connection. Programs are offered year round for children and adults. An active Friends of the Library group supports the library with fund raising and additional programs.

The library is governed by the Saxton B. Little Free Library Association, a 501(c) 3 non-profit corporation with a voluntary Board of Directors. About 85 to 90% of operating income is paid by a town grant. Friends of the Library, the Annual Holiday drive, memorial donations, dividend funds, and gifts and grants provide other funds.

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