Bethlehem Public Library — a short history


On May 14, 1913, the Delmar Progress Club organized the Delmar Free Library Association. Bethlehem's first public library opened in a room on the second floor of a schoolhouse on the corner of Kenwood Avenue and Adams Street. Granted a provisional charter in July 1913 by the Board of Regents, the Delmar Free Library was staffed and administered by Progress Club volunteers until the school district took over proprietorship in 1931.

The town's first librarian was Eula Hallam, who presided over 2,750 titles and ordered the library's first magazine subscription. She also drove the bookmobile, the first in the state to be operated by a school district library.

In the ensuing years the library outgrew two locations, and moved to its current facility in 1972. In 1981 the circulation desk was computerized, and in 1983 the library acquired its first public access computer. In 1998 the card catalog was replaced by a computerized catalog linked to the other 28 libraries of the Upper Hudson Library System.

In 2004 the library completed a major renovation project, remaining open during construction for all but a few days. The following year, community volunteers planted gardens on the grounds.

Today the library houses close to 137,000 books and media and circulates about 765,000 items annually. It provides 26 public computers, wireless access, and online resources of all kinds. In addition to its own website, it maintains a Facebook page and websites for children and teens.

The library partners with the school district, Bethlehem Senior Projects and other community organizations, and offers its meeting rooms free to community groups. It also houses the community's public access television station. The library sponsored over 1,000 programs in 2011-12, and 379,000 people passed through its doors.

In 2013 the library marks one hundred years of service to the community. A centennial committee has been formed, and exciting plans are underway. The library continues to be a vital and relevant part of Bethlehem community life—as it was at its founding a century ago.

—Louise Grieco
statistics source: 2011-12 annual report
11.28.06 rev. 2.08, 8.09, 6.12, 10.12, 1.13

old library photo 1 book mobile



451 Delaware Ave • Delmar • NY • 12054 • (518) 439-9314 • directions
last updated on Wednesday, January 23, 2013
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