The History of the Library in Central Falls, Rhode Island
Loaning among friends was the first form of book exchange in Central Falls. Resident Ornam Patt, in his memoirs, recalls “book trading” in mill buildings on Mill Street as far back as the 1830’s. The Mois and Jenks shop, and that of Benedict and Woods, maintained a collection of books and it was in the latter that a library first established itself in 1847. The next mention of a book collection in the historical record refers to one reserved for members of the fire department and their families. The first published catalog dates back to 1874, when the fire department turned over its collection for the formation of a free public library. In 1882 the state permitted the Fire District to form a free library association open to all local citizens at the fire house on Cross Street. Joseph W. Freeman was the city’s first librarian.
When Stephen L. Adams, a public-spirited citizen and a member of the school committee, passed away he left a bequest to provide for the erection and maintenance of a library building. The building was designed by the Boston architectural firm of McLean and Wright. Work on the Greek Revival structure started in 1908; the Library’s new home was opened to the public on May 2, 1910. To this day, the facility is owned and maintained by the Adams Memorial Trust.
Throughout the 20th century, the Library evolved in ways that mirrored changes to the City of Central Falls. In 1973, the City used a bequest of General Lysander Flagg (a Civil War Quartermaster) to refurbish the Library’s lower level into a Children’s Room. In 1984, the Board of the Adams Memorial Trust completed the rear addition to the Library that included a small auditorium named in honor of Rose L. McCormick, a beloved librarian who served at the Library from 1937 to 1974. These improvements also included an elevator that provided improved access for the disabled.
On July 1, 2011, a municipal financial crisis resulted in the closing of the Library. This action prompted a group of spirited volunteers to re-open the facility a month later and continue to provide services to the public on a limited basis. Many of these volunteers continue to serve the library as we continue to evolve to meet the needs of Central Falls in the 21st century.