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Endicott Free Library

The Endicott Free Library was first opened on March 16, 1915 in the Mattoon Hotel building on Washington Avenue, due to the work of a group of forty residents who raised the necessary funds to establish a free library association. It was headed by a board of seven trustees, including Chester B. Lord, President; John W. Johnson, Vice President; John E. Paden, Treasurer; Herbert H. Crumb, Mrs. William G. Collingwood and Mrs. Chester B. Lord. The first annual meeting was held at Union-Endicott High School on January 11, 1916. The circulation for the first nine months of operation was 24,493 books.

One of the examples of the fund raisers which the group sponsored was an historical drama: “From Sumter to Appomattox.” It was performed by the Oxford Bible Class of the First Methodist Church.

Many residents of Endicott’s north side were immigrants and skilled craftsmen employed in the tanneries and factories of the Endicott-Johnson Corporation. In an effort to serve the north side the library started one of the northeast’s first bookmobiles in 1916. The truck was a standard flat-bed Ford donated by a local resident who used it during daytime hours for light hauling. The vehicle was operated two hours each evening after supper and before dark so that residents could see the books and would have time to make a choice of materials. Because many patrons were not able to speak or read English, the staff attempted to help them in solving any problems which they had in filling out forms, etc. and also provided books written in the appropriate foreign languages. The book shelves for the truck were removable and were made at a cost of only $5.00. They were taken out each evening when the bookmobile was returned to the main library.

The bookmobile was such a success that Margery Quigley, the librarian, received queries about its structure and operation from many larger library systems. She also wrote an article on the challenges of bookmobile service entitled: “Parnassus on Wheels” (Parnassus was a mountain in Greece supposedly sacred to the god Apollo and the Muses. The term implies a relationship to poetry and the arts). Because of the enthusiastic support of the operation (between 50 and 150 books circulated daily) the library board of trustees approved the construction of a library on the north side to serve this population.

The library on Washington Avenue contained children’s, adult’s, and periodical reading rooms and a meeting room. It closed on September 6, 1918 when the library moved to larger quarters in the former Harlow E. Bundy residence.

Ideal Home Library

The Ideal Home, the former residence of Harlow E. Bundy of the Bundy Time Recorder Company, was donated for use as a library by George F. Johnson. The library was incorporated under the laws of New York State and governed by a board of trustees. On September 6, 1918, the library was moved from the Mattoon Building to the Bundy home and become known as the Ideal Home Library. The Bundy home was located on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Park Street where the police and fire complex is currently located. The first librarian was Anna Hall with Alma Jones the librarian at the Hillside Center branch library.

In 1918, at the time of the move, the library contained 7,000 volumes and in 1919 had a circulation of 59,978 books including 26,375 children’s books. Also in 1919, 1,910 new library cards were issued. It was estimated that almost 50% of the community benefited from Endicott’s two libraries.

During World War I, the library purchased and circulated books about the war and acted as a local office and distribution center for War Savings, Liberty Loan, Red Cross and United Way War Work campaigns. It also widely distributed extension service pamphlets on farming and food.

The classes for foreign speaking residents and also the books in their native language which the library provided were a particularly noteworthy accomplishment for a library in a community the size of Endicott. Foreign language books were available in Armenian, Czechoslovakian, Greek, Italian, Polish, and Russian. Funds to purchase books came from a joint effort of the village residents, village taxes and the State of New York. The Endicott-Johnson Corporation also provided some support toward building upkeep until the village purchased both buildings in 1938.

The interior of the Ideal Home was outstanding. It contained intricate woodwork, a lovely stained glass window, beautiful oriental carpets and other fine furnishings. The main floor contained the adult and children’s reading rooms, the Director’s office and the magazine and pamphlet collections. The Cataloging and Processing departments were located on the second floor. The second floor also housed three club rooms each decorated in a different color scheme and identified as the “green,” “yellow,” and “rose” rooms. These meeting facilities were heavily used as evidenced by the 520 public meetings and parties which were held there in 1920. The third floor ballroom was used for weddings and for large receptions and also for library story hours and film programs. At this time the library was open seven days a week and also offered evening hours.

When Anna Hall resigned she was replaced by Margery Quigley, formerly of the St. Louis Public Library. Miss Quigley was a graduate of Vassar and the New York State Library School at Albany. She was assisted by Evelyn C. Eldridge and Alma Jones.

Margery Quigley collaborated with Mary Clark, another Endicott librarian, to write a children’s book titled “Poppy Seed Cakes” under the pseudonym of Margery Clark. The story told of a family on Endicott’s north side. A later edition was illustrated by the noted illustrators Maude and Miska Petersham. The original copyright date on the book was 1924. The illustrations for the original edition were done by Miss Clark. The book is considered a children’s classic and is still available in many libraries today.

The Ideal Home Library also served as a community center. Because of the beautiful grounds surrounding the library many parties were held there for the children and scouts from the Hillside Center Library.

The name of the library was changed to the Endicott Public Library in 1938 when the village purchased both the main and branch facilities from the Endicott-Johnson Corporation. The library remained at the Bundy site until 1950.

Hillside Center Library

The Hillside Center was built as a library and community for the north side residents at 104 Odell Avenue as a result of the popularity of the traveling book truck instituted in 1916 from the Endicott Free Library located on Washington Avenue. This library was first opened on March 2, 1920 and was built at a cost of $20,000.00. It was estimated that over five hundred people attended the opening of the Hillside Center.

This branch of the library – even more than the Ideal Home – was a real community center. In its early years the schedule included the well-baby clinic sponsored by the Endicott-Johnson Corporation. It is interesting to note that both physicians who worked at the clinic were women: Dr. Augusta C. Kritz and Dr. Marion Morse. The library also sponsored a play school for pre-school children, organized games for older children during the summer, ran sewing and cooking classes for girls and boys, a reading club, story hours and a Girl Scout troop.

The English language classes for adults were a very important part of the activities of the Hillside Center in its early years of operation. The foreign language books were very popular and the Hillside Center provided new citizens with their first contacts with the language and customs of their new homeland.

There were many community activities held daily. One presentation in 1920 was the Roscoe Family Orchestra from the north side. It was composed entirely of members of one family. There was also a Robble Avenue community chorus which performed for their neighbors.

The sewing and cooking classes were held twice in the morning and again in the afternoon. The girl’s play school was supervised by Annis Lacey, and the boy’s by Ralph Bodle.

As the library expanded in popularity its hours changed. Children’s hours were established from 3 PM until 6 PM. The hours from 6 PM until 9 PM were set aside for adults to use after their factory shifts were over for the day.

In an effort to improve the health of the children a “health crusaders” program was organized for school-age youth. This group worked with youngsters too old for the well-baby clinic and instructed them in good health habits. Although the health crusaders were organized at Hillside Center they used the grounds at Ideal Home for their many activities.

As the schools began to expand their library and health and home economics programs some of these special classes were discontinued. The Hillside Center continued to provide valuable services to the residents of the north side with books, records, reference service, children’s story hours, films and meeting rooms until its closing on August 31, 1968.

George F. Johnson Memorial Library

George F. Johnson died on November 21, 1948. In 1950 the village acquired the Johnson homestead on Park Street, built in 1903, for use as a public library. On October 9, 1951 the library was dedicated to the memory of the industrialist by his daughter, Mrs. Floyd E. Sweet. The memorial plaque reads: “In memory of George F. and his wife Mary A. Johnson — whose home this was — this library is dedicated to their efforts to assure fuller understanding and happiness for all.” Also present at the dedication were John J. Cummings of the Greater Endicott Chamber of Commerce; Mrs. Charles W. Curtis, library board member; Mayor C. Burdette Parkhurst; and the guest speaker, Binghamton lawyer Addison Keeler. The Rev. George C. Copetanios of Endicott’s First Church of Christ gave the invocation and the Rev. Carmen Monteleone of St. Anthony of Padua Church offered the benediction. Approximately seventy-five people attended the dedication ceremony.

The library was under the direction of Beatrice E. Scott, who entered into Endicott library service on September 1, 1936. Mrs. Scott was a pioneer in making film and record collections available for patron use. She was also very involved in the planning for the present library building opened in 1967. The residence contained beautiful woodwork similar to that in the Ideal Home site. It also housed some unique items including gold leaf fixtures in the bathrooms and a circular staircase to the second floor. The main floor housed the principal adult reading room, the director’s and secretary’s offices, and the children’s easy reading room located in an enclosed sun porch on the Lincoln Avenue side of the building. The second floor featured the intermediate children’s room, a memorial containing the memorabilia from the homestead, another adult reading room, several meeting rooms and a staff room and kitchen. The top floor housed a custodial apartment with hardwood floors and a skylight which illuminated the living room.

There was also a carriage house behind the library which contained a large upstairs meeting room. At one time classes for the Harpur College were held there. This was also the facility used for the children’s story hours. The carriage house also housed the library from September 25, 1966 to October 21, 1967, while the new library was being built. At the time of the library construction, the hours at the Hillside Center Library were expanded so that library service to the community would not be interrupted.

The New George F. Johnson Memorial Library

The present library was opened to the public on September 25, 1967 and was formally dedicated October 21, 1967. Present on the speaker’s platform among others were: Frank A. Johnson, grandson of George F.; Mrs. Donald Bundy, library director; Rev. Willard Cook; Dr. Vincent Casey, library trustee; Mayor John Brunner; the Honorable Edgar W. Couper, Chancellor of the Board of Regents (speaker); John Humphry, Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Education Department (speaker); Salvatore Fauci, local attorney and library trustee who was instrumental in the successful completion of the federal grant applications for construction of the new facility; Mrs. Beatrice E. Scott, former library director; Dr. Paul Margarone, library trustee; Mr. Marcus A. Wright, director of the Four County Library System; Dorothy Smith, Library Extension program director; and Mrs. Charles Curtis, former library trustee.

The new library was designed to hold 50,000 volumes, doubling the capacity from the 28,464 volumes in the original homestead. Today the library houses over 80,000 volumes, the result of careful use of available floor space. The total floor space was increased from 5,828 square feet to 18,000 square feet. Of the $450,000.00 cost of the library construction, $360,000.00 was paid from federal grants. Quite a bargain for the village residents! The balance came from municipal funds and local contributions.

The current building has a bright adult reading room and a large stack area for circulating fiction and non-fiction. In addition to books the library offers a large magazine collection, DVDs, music on compact disc, a large-print collection and audiobooks on both CD and Playaway. The staff features seven professionals holding Masters Degrees in Library and Information Science and one library assistant all with many years of experience. The children’s room is inviting and spacious, divided from the adult area by a glass partition. Story hours and special programs are held at various times throughout the year. The children’s book collection is one of the largest in the Four County system. Additionally, there are personal computers with software chosen for youngsters from pre-school through junior high, and additional Internet access. A separate young adult area meets the specific reading needs of this age group. The director’s office, and the cataloging and processing departments. The Tech Center on the second floor provides digital literacy education to the community, and features videoconferencing equipment.  Interactive displays are available in the Tech Center as well as in the basement meeting room. The Friends of the Library book sale is held the first and third Fridays of every month in a convenient location in the basement. There are also two private study rooms. The upper and lower floors are handicap accessible.

George F. has been on the forefront of electronic innovation in area libraries.  Public terminals permit access to the collections of all forty-three libraries in the Four County System. A bank of personal computers offer Internet access and Microsoft Office applications.  Available on-line databases include thousands of magazine and journal titles, employment assistance, test preparation, and more.  The entire building features free Wi-Fi.  We offer free online foreign language lessons, downloadable e-books, audiobooks and magazines, an array of e-mail newsletters to keep you posted on the latest GFJ news and new titles, and Facebook and Instagram access to stay in touch.

The library is open Monday through Thursday from 9 AM until 8 PM, Friday and Saturday from 9 AM until 5 PM. There are no Saturday hours from the last Saturday in June through Labor Day. While we are pleased to provide you with access to the library from your home computer and encourage you to visit us in person to see all we have to offer.

We hope to see you soon!

This history of the library was largely written by Eileen P. Kilrain with the assistance of Evelyn Muir, Helen Westgate, and Helen Dunkle.