West Haven’s first subscription library was founded in 1792 by community leaders “wishing to subserve and advance the interests of religion and learning, and being fully persuaded that a choice collection of the best authors on geography, history, the belle letters, divinity and other branches of science may sub-serve those interests and being confident that we ourselves, our children and unborn generations, may receive much pleasure and literary improvement by frequent converse with such authors and be assisted in making progress in divine knowledge, we think it our indispensable duty to unite in purchasing such a collection and forming a library, to be under the direction of those we shall appoint to the Office of Librarian.”
A selection of books was purchased from West Haven bookseller Isaac Beers.
For more than a century the library moved to different sites in West Haven. In 1906 the Village Improvement Association was incorporated to beautify the city and to establish a permanent home for the public library.
Andrew Carnegie awarded a grant of $10,000.00 and the VIA raised the balance of $1,510.50. Designed by McLean and Wright of Boston, the library is located at the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Elm Street, once known as Ward’s Corner.
The lot was purchased with generous contributions from Henry Ward and Henry Hungerford. This historic building, one of eleven Carnegie libraries constructed in Connecticut (and one of 1,337 built across America) opened to the public on September 1, 1909 with 1,550 registered borrowers, 1,337 volumes and an annual book circulation of 19,734.
Three remarkable women — Caroline Lewis, Ora Mason and Concetta Sacco — administered the library through nine decades of change and challenges.
In 1960, with an addition designed by Henry Schraub Kelly and constructed by Jack Halprin, Inc., the library rededicated itself to serve a growing city’s information and recreational needs.
We entered a new century with over 30,000 registered borrowers, holdings of more than 166,000 items and annual circulation surpassing 267,000 items.
In 2002, Bradley Green (Director) and the staff settled into a 5,000 square foot expansion and renovation designed by Sapienza and Lessig and built by Consolidated Contractors, Inc.
Democracy can flourish only when a literate citizenry has free access to information and ideas. As we prepare West Haven residents for full participation in the global information society, we strive to preserve the best of the past as we look toward the future with curiosity and confidence.