Written History of the Lake Placid Library

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The Founding

photo of main street and the Library

1883, some of the people of Lake Placid felt the need for a library. A public notice was put up, and the meeting was scheduled to be held in the Adirondack Baptist Church on January 15, 1884.

On the appointed day eighteen people "interested in the literary advancement of our community" formed the Library Association of North Elba. A Certificate of Incorporation was filed in the office of the Essex County Clerk, Mr. Roberts, who donated the cost of the filing, on February 19, 1884.

Building plans began immediately. Two hundred books had already been donated for the shelves, as well as several newspaper and magazine subscriptions. A plot between Mirror Lake and Main Street was chosen. It has been the site of the library ever since.

The plot belonged to the Adirondack Baptist Church. The Library Association was to pay a token rent of $1.00 to the Church on January 1st of east year; on the same day the church donated $1.00 to the Library Association. Thus the property cost the library nothing; only the annual exchange of receipts was involved. The lease was to run for fifty years and was renewable for another fifty. Byron E. McLeod donated his time to survey the plot and James L. Breeze of New York City drew up plans and specifications for free. R.W. Clifford was chosen to build the library for $1200.

The community generously donated time, raw materials and cash. The dream of a few people had become that of the whole community. The Lake Placid Public Library opened its doors in July 1886. Lydia Wood was elected the first Librarian and began to collect her salary of $1.00 a week.

School District Library

Before the turn of the century, the State Education Laws provided for the establishment of public libraries throughout New York State. By transferring the Library to the local School District under the supervision of the State University of New York, a firmer, more secure organization would result.

Voters of School District #2, Town of North Elba, elected five new Trustees who were instructed to apply to the Regents of the University for a charter. At a meeting on December 10, 1894, the Trustees officially transferred the ownership of the library to themselves as the new Library Board. The Charter as a School District Library was granted the same year.

The School District also voted an appropriation of $300 for the maintenance of the Library; an additional $100 was expected to be received through gifts and "entertainments". The expenditure budget for the year was: $200 for books, $25 for utilities, $75 for furniture and office supplies, and $100 for the Librarian's salary, a doubling of a few years ago. The Library was now open at least an hour a day, three days a week. By 1896 the hours has increased to 10 a week in the summer and 4 � a week in the winter.

New century

Photo of Library

At the turn of the century, Lake Placid installed a new sidewalk along Main Street, and the Library was required to move the building back a few feet. The construction costs for raising and moving the library was $450, more than a third of the original construction 15 years earlier.

By the winter of 1901-1902, hours and days of service were extended and a new stove made the reading room more comfortable. The Library records show that by 1902 holdings has increased to over 2000 bound books in addition to newspapers and "several of the best magazines."

The Dewey Influence

From its beginning the Library had enjoyed a working relationship with librarian and fellow townsman, Melvil Dewey. He was the founder of the American Library Association, the first School of Library Science at Columbia University and the inventor of a method of cataloging based on the decimal system, known as the Dewey Decimal System. He served as State Librarian and as Secretary to the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. In 1895, he and his wife Annie started a retreat for vacationing teachers, librarians, and other like-minded individuals, who enjoyed the beautiful scenery and repose which the mountains offered. The retreat was the beginning of the renowned Lake Placid Club.

He encouraged the growth of the young Lake Placid Library by donating $40 worth of newspaper and magazine subscriptions to the Library if the trustees would agree to keep the building open six nights a week. Dewey was also billed $20 a year for allowing his guests to use the reading room and borrow books. This arrangement continued until the Club built its own library.

Purchase of Library Property

During the time between the wars, the Baptist Church sold the property on which the Library stood to the Adirondack Finance Corporation (AFC). The AFC refused to acknowledge the friendly lease agreement and the annual exchange of a dollar between the Baptist Church and the Library Association.

After years of controversy, the Library Board, The Lake Placid School Board and the Adirondack Finance Corporation reach an agreement for the School District to purchase the lot, on which the library stood, for $8500. The voters ratified the agreement on July 14, 1936.


photo of library 1930's

Throughout the years, the Library has continued to acquire a good selection of books, with regular additions to the collection according to the needs and desires of the community. As the library became crowded, plans to expand have continued over the years.

The enclosure of the back reading porch was completed in 1941. An addition of a separate children's room and a reference room on the middle floor level was completed in June of 1952. The Library also made its final mortgage payment in 1952 and at last the Library own its own land.

In 1954, Lake Placid joined the Clinton-Essex Library System (Franklin County joined soon thereafter). The benefits included a larger book pool, in-depth reference, and better access to inter-library loans. For the Centennial Year, The Board of Trustees decided to mark this milestone with an expansion program. Rather than an addition, the focus was to more efficiently use the existing space. The steep narrow stairway to the children's room was replaced; large picture windows were installed above it. The unheated and inaccessible basement became a large, bright office and cataloguing room. Casement windows were installed overlooking the Main Street porch, entry steps were replaced and new floor tiles were place in the main stack area.

The last expansion completed in December 2000 included a three-story extension to the main building and the purchase of the Giambruno property next door. A connector was built between the buildings; an elevator providing handicapped access was installed. A computer room is now available in the new annex as well as a gallery and a community room.