Granby Library Association 1869–2019

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Photo courtesy of Salmon Brook Historical Society

Home of the Granby Public Library 1918 to 1982.

The Granby Library Association is a unique organization. It has operated and then supported a public library in Granby for 150 years, although it is a private organization. The GLA continued an unbroken chain of library service in Granby Center. 

1761 Salmon Brook Publick Library

1821 Granby Library

1849 Granby Literary and Library Association

1869 Granby Library Association

A group of nine prominent men from Granby Center obtained a charter for the GLA in 1869. They were authorized to sell the old St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and use the proceeds to erect a building to be used for a library, a school, town meetings and other purposes.

A two-story building with a basement was constructed on the site of the old church. “Granby had a great celebration on this occasion. There were public speakers, including Governor Jewell of Hartford. A bower was made from pine boughs and a band played. A double carriage and horses met the Governor and his party at the depot and drove them to Salmon Brook. After the speeches, cake and ice cream was enjoyed.”

The Library Building also housed a Select School (private high school) and town meetings were held in a basement room, which was furnished at town expense. In 1872, South Congregational Church was formed and services were held on the first floor of the Library Building—the library was moved upstairs. The building was sold to South Church in 1886. 

As with many organizations, there is often a lull in operations as the founders age and then reorganize with a younger generation. In 1887, Laura Dibble Bunce brought a group, “The Hartford Amateurs” to Granby to put on a play. The proceeds were used to fund the library. A revised Constitution and Bylaws were written. At first, library members had to pay $1 a year and non-members paid two-cents a week to borrow a book. However, in 1892, it was decided to operate as a free public library, with only fines to be paid by tardy borrowers.

The GLA Board of Directors was responsible for hiring and paying a librarian. It ordered and paid for books and other needed supplies. It held fundraisers to continue to support the library. In 1903, another constitution was adopted. 

A disastrous fire in 1917 destroyed the South Congregational Church and Library building. The library lost everything except 40 books on loan and 300 new books not yet on the shelves. A week later, the library reopened in the Salmon Brook Street home of the secretary, Edith B. Lockwood. Within 10 months, more than 2,000 books were donated by individuals and other libraries. 

The South Congregational Church decided to rebuild in its present location and the former site was given to the GLA. A new library was constructed there in 1918, by the children of Laura Bunce, and given to the GLA as a memorial to her. It is now the Visiting Nurses building.

The new library was very important in the community. Official town groups and many civic organizations held meetings there. The Salmon Brook Historical Society started in 1945 as the Historical Room in the library basement. 

Although officially a private library, the Granby Public Library was free to all citizens of Granby and was supported by the Community Fund, town funds and the GLA endowment funds. Lack of adequate space was a constant problem as the town and library services grew. 

The final chapter for the private library in Granby Center began when the town charter called for the formation of a single Granby Library Board in 1966. This board managed town-wide library services at the public Cossitt Library and by contract with the private GLA. 

In 1967, the 80th anniversary of the 1887 reorganization, the first major alterations were made in the Granby Public Library building. A gift from Helen Bunce Edwards, daughter of Laura Bunce, funded the new stairs to the children’s room and a new heating system. 

Finally, after many years of study, debate and postponements, the new Granby Public Library was built on North Granby Road in 1982 and the GLA had its last reorganization. Control of the library was ceded to the town and the GLA became a non-profit organization with endowment funds. The old library property was sold to the Town of Granby for $1.

A rather tongue-in-cheek bill was sent to the Granby First Selectman in April 1982.

Over 60 years of free library service, $.19

140,000 hours of voluntary service, $.49

6 decades of purchase of books, furnishings, $.27

Real estate, $.05

Total, $1.00

The Selectman wrote a check for the full amount.

The GLA did not disappear, but continued as an active, viable organization with a new focus. Its goal was to be good stewards of the GLA endowment funds and manage its investments to benefit the library. 

It specializes in supporting projects and programs not in the library budget. The list includes funding the new circulation desk, display case and bookshelves in the children’s room, supplying DVD racks, an E-reader, some of the new reading terrace furniture, helping to purchase more book shelves and create an area for study and computer use, sponsoring the children’s summer reading program, helping with the computer connection to other libraries as well as adding workroom amenities for the library staff. 

In addition, the GLA provided funds for collection updates to the geography and travel section, funded purchases for the book club, bought large print and reference books for the Connecticut shelf and also paid to have books rebound. The GLA continues to sponsor cultural and social events at the library. 

Through the years, library needs expanded and changed, but the GLA was there for computers, audio books and DVDs as well as print books. The list of GLA projects and gifts could go on for pages and the ways it has helped the library is immeasurable. GLA members also put a plaque on the old library building to commemorate its place in Granby history.

A library is a place for the community to gather, for children to do their homework and for a variety of programs. GLA support enhances all of these activities. Happy Birthday!