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 128,000 books and media and provides access to 140,000 downloadable items. The library circulates about 641,000 items annually. It provides more than two dozen public computers, wireless access, and online resources of all kinds. In addition to its own website, it maintains a Facebook page and other social media accounts.
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 almost 400 programs in 2022, and 153,000 people passed through its doors.
The library continues to be a vital and relevant part of Bethlehem community life — as it was at its founding over a century ago.
Read the library’s centennial eBook “They Built Better Than They Realized.” (pdf)