In 1888 Shelburne’s population was close to 1,300. The Honorable J. L. Barstow and several other citizens united to start a free library. With gifts of money and books, about 100 volumes were gathered, and placed in the care of Mary Gribbin, then postmistress, who served as librarian for $15 a year.
The library made several moves over the years as the collection continued to grow. For a time it was kept in Mr. Dubuc’s upstairs hall, his daughter Anna serving as librarian. Later it moved to a rented room over the Tracy & Van Vliet general store. By 1896 the Library Trustees stated, in their first report to the town, that the library had 342 volumes and 256 books were borrowed by Shelburne families during the past year.
In 1909 the library’s space was so overcrowded that the secretary of the Trustees was storing books at her home. A Library Building Club was organized to raise money for a library building. Such enthusiasm was shown that by the next year funds were available to purchase a building for the amount of $1,500.
The building, which currently houses the Shelburne Craft School Gallery, had housed a general store, parsonage and apartments since its construction in 1816. Much work had to be done to the building to make it usable, including the addition of a piazza and pillars. An informal reception was held to mark the opening of the new building on June 1, 1911. By the end of that year the library’s collection numbered 2,377 volumes and 2,110 items were borrowed by 110 families. That year the Trustees formally turned the care of the library over to the town.
In 1922 the library became the Pierson Library as the result of a bequest of $38,000 left by James Pierson, whose early life was spent in Shelburne. Soon after, in 1927, two wings were added to the building to provide space for reading rooms, and a “modern” card index of the collection was installed.
By 1958 the library was becoming crowded again. The population of the town had increased to about 1,800 people. The library’s collection had increased to 7,950 volumes and 11,927 items were loaned to residents.
It took a while for the library to get a larger home. The Library's phase of the Village Center Project was completed in November 2001. The move to the library’s current location nearly doubled the amount of space available. This building formerly housed the town offices and the police department. Its location at the back of the Shelburne’s Old Town Hall greatly enhanced the number and type of programs the library could sponsor. The Library officially opened to the public in its new home on December 17, 2001.
Shelburne’s population is now over 7,000. In 2004 the library’s collection totaled 25,160 items and 53,610 items were borrowed. Audio books and videos, which didn’t exist in 1888, were over 18% of the materials borrowed that year. There is also a library service that couldn’t have been imagined years ago, computers. Fifty-seven people a week use the library’s computers for email, research and word processing. The “modern” index of the library’s collection is now called the OPAC and is also computerized. The librarians of yesteryear would be surprised by the changes that time has brought.
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