Camden Public Library celebrates building’s 90th birthday

Posted:  Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 3:15pm

CAMDEN – The Camden Public Library held a birthday celebration to mark 90 years on Monday, June 11 in the Picker Room at the library. Cayla Miller, events coordinator for the library, said it's not the actual birthday of the library as an entity; rather the birthday of the original building, which is home to the old reading room upstairs.

"That building opened its doors on June 11, 1928," she said. "That was also a Monday, which makes it kind of fun. Miss Katherine W. Harding served as the first librarian."

The first library in Camden was established in 1796 and was known as the Federal Society's Library, according to library archives. Camden, at that time, had 15 houses and the library had 200 books.

In 1854, the library opened in Mrs. Jesse Hosmer's house on Wood Street. Later, it moved to the second floor of the Camden National Bank building and remained at that location until the fire of 1892 destroyed the business district.

In 1896, citizens of Camden voted to establish a free public library to be known as the Camden Public Library. Camden townspeople raised the money themselves to build the library. No assistance was made by Andrew Carnegie, who at the time was a library philanthropist.

Mary Louise Curtis Bok donated the land in 1916 and the cornerstone was laid on August 17, 1927. The library opened its doors on June 11, 1928.

Jenni Parmalee, marketing director, said the library hosts an estimated 360 visitors per day. In 2017, 230,000 people came through its doors.

Nikki Maounis, library director, said the library employees 15 people, with 10 being fulltime. The library includes a history center and a children's room.

"We are a full seven-day-a-week library now, and, of course, in the beginning that wasn't so," she said. "Libraries have evolved over the generations to be much more than reading rooms. Today, it’s more about education so we have a much broader view. I really think we have something for everybody in the community."

Today the library is 15,000 square feet in size.

"The original library was one floor and a basement," Maounis said. "That would put the original library in the neighborhood of 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, plus the basement. The upstairs reading room was the original library."

Maounis said they had 90 cupcakes courtesy of three Dog Cafe and refreshments. She said they would celebrate until the cupcakes ran out.