History of Clinton Community Library

History of the Clinton Community Library
by Craig Marshall, Clinton Town Historian

Prior to 1965 there was no library in Clinton and residents had to check out books from libraries in other towns. In that year Clinton residents Ruth Green and Dacie Kershaw proposed to the Clinton Town Board that a “reading room” be established in the loft of Town Hall. Under Town Supervisor Horace Kulp’s leadership, the Board voted to appropriate $1,000 per year to fund the reading room through the Mid-Hudson Library System (MHLS), which donated two thousand volumes for the start-up.

Mr. Kulp personally built the shelving and painted the loft area, and on April 3, 1965, one hundred residents attended the opening of the free library. It was named the Town of Clinton Community Library Reading Center but was not an official chartered library, since this would have required a full-time paid and trained librarian. The staff consisted of 25 part-time volunteers trained by MHLS in library operations. Besides books, LP records were available for loan — 106 of which were circulated in the first nine months. By July the center had 170 adult members and 86 junior members. Circulation in August was four hundred volumes. The following year the center offered framed art on a four-month loan.   

Between 1965 and 1973, the population of the town doubled to three thousand. With increasing usage and books added to the shelves, a growing problem was revealed: the floor in the reading center loft and the bookshelves began to seriously sag, prompting safety concerns. In addition, the loft could not hold all the available books and many were stored in the attics of private homes. In December 1973 a group of residents formed a committee to replace the reading center and raise funds to build a stand-alone library. 

The plan was to erect a separate 1,200 square foot structure next to Town Hall with a connecting passageway. A compromise was reached with the Town Board. The Town would build the basement, install a furnace, and use the space for town offices. The library would occupy the floor above, which was on the same level as the Town Hall meeting room. The library portion (estimated at $35,000 including furnishings) would be financed entirely by donations with no support from taxes. A fundraising drive was begun soliciting three-year pledges of $15.00 per year. Former Town Supervisor Kulp and County Representative Putnam Davis visited every house in Clinton, securing $10,000 in pledges for the proposed building. Many fundraiser events were also held, including sales of wood-framed prints made by Kulp.

Later, with $12,000 in pledges from two hundred donors and income from fundraisers, the decision was made to begin the project. A gala groundbreaking event attended by Congressman Hamilton Fish and Representative Putnam Davis, who dug the first spadefuls, was held on April 27, 1974. Construction commenced with a decision to contract the framing, roofing, and heating. To reduce cost, many services were donated—including the building design by DCC architecture student John Bon; installation of ceilings, window frames, and electricity; and gifts of library equipment. The total cash expense was $19,000 ($15,000 for contractors, $4,000 for furnishings). 

Officials at the May 1, 1976 dedication commented on the extraordinary donations of funds, goods, and services by Clinton residents that could set an example for other communities. Since the new library still did not meet the standards of an official chartered library, it continued as the Clinton Community Library Reading Center. The new center boasted three thousand books and thirty volunteers, each of whom volunteered two hours a day for the operation. In 1984 services offered included a coupon exchange, Dungeon & Dragons Club, loan of a Polaroid camera and 16-millimeter films, and a sewing pattern exchange. Programs for children have always been a special feature.

Finally, on December 12, 2004, having met all the requirements except secure funding, status as a provisionally chartered library was achieved, with a new name: the Clinton Community Library (CCL). In 2017 town voters approved the library to exit from the town budget process and raise its own funds, enabling the granting of a permanent charter in 2018. 

The strength of the Clinton Community Library today comes from the dedication of its volunteers, staff, and Board of Trustees, and wide support from the community. So impressive are the library offerings and the outstanding management of library operations that CCL was awarded the coveted Joseph F. Shubert Library Excellence Award from the New York State Regents Advisory Council in 2018. Truly, the Clinton Community Library continues to be a great asset to the town and a facility of which its residents can justly be proud.

On October 27, 2022 Craig Marshall presented a Lunch & Learn lecture on the History of the Clinton Community Library.