History of the Library

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History of the Library

The Whitinsville Social Library is the public library for the town of Northbridge, Massachusetts. "Social" in the Library name indicates it was originally a subscription library and only 4 libraries in the United States still retain the word social in their name.

Today's Whitinsville Social Library has its roots in a meeting held in December of 1844 to discuss a $100 legacy left by Miss Sarah Whitin "to take into consideration the establishment of a Social Library." In February of the 1876, the Library, then housed in the new Town Hall, was allocated the sum of $300 by the town and opened as a free public library.

In 1913, the present building on Church Street was constructed through the efforts of Edward and Arthur Fletcher Whitin, who sold it to the town of Northbridge for $1.00 in 1917.

During the 20th century, the library grew apace of the town. Income from a private trust fund established by the Whitin family substantially augment annual municipal funding to present day. Highlights:

  • 1990's - Joined CWMARS, the Central/Western Massachusetts regional library consortium, asan affiliate library
  • 2001- Automated the card catalog and circulation
  • 2010 - Joined CWMARS as a full member and began sharing holdings within the regional online catalog. Today, CWMARS provides our library catalog, database access, downloadable ebooks, videos, and audiobooks, and provides for public Internet access.

Library Building

The present building was built in 1913 from Milford granite, a local stone, in the Georgian Revival style, and is part of the Whitinsville Historic District and included in the National Register of Historic Places. Except for a small addition for accessibilty in the 1990s and the opening of the book stacks to the public, the building is essentially unchanged. Much of the original furnishings also remain. What follows is the text of a 1913 article in American Architect magazine, published just prior to the opening of the building: 

"This is a small library in a small town, to be taken care of most of the time by a single attendent. The reading rooms and delivery room have therefore been designed for inspection from a single point. By making the whole front of the building a single room it was possible to get a room which has the dignity of considerable size, and by the use of the open decorative screens the two ends of the room are given a sense of seclusion from the central delivery space, and yet are entirely open for inspection by the attendant at the delivery sedk itself. There is no second floor except over the two small portions at the rear of the front rooom and to the right and left of the stack, in which the stories are low and there is a second story of study rooms. There is a second story level of stack in the basement, the upper level being that on the level of the first floor. The outside of the building is a local granite, the finish of the reading room is entirely of California redwood. The stack is cast iron, and the uprights of the stack are utilized as supports for the concrete slab which forms the roof."

Library Seal 

The library seal carved over the front entrance was designed by the architect, Mr. R. Clipston Sturgis. Based on the tradition of heraldy, it shows: 

  • A black rock on a field of blue and silver wavelike bands which represents the Blackstone River.
  • An open book with gold leaves and edges on a plain blue field which represents the Library and education.
  • Two V's on the book pages to represent the Library's books. Together they also form a W, to stand for the name Whitin.