The roots of the Oak Bluffs Public Library trace back to the 1880s, when a small but enthusiastic group of (then Cottage City) residents formed the Rural Improvement Association.
Among the group’s many improvement goals was to “quicken the social and intellectual life of the people.” By 1883, this had led to the recognition of the need for a town library. Lillie Chapman was put in charge and a call for book donations went out. Books accumulated and the collection grew quickly in the Chapman home on Lake Avenue.
Within a year, it was clear that the library needed a home of its own, and it moved to a room upstairs in the Arcade Building on Circuit Avenue. The collection steadily increased, as did the responsibility of running the library. In 1905 the association offered the library as a gift to the town, which they voted to accept at the 1906 Town Meeting.
Subsequently, the library moved once again, this time to the Eldredge Building, which was then remodeled and housed the Edgartown National Bank. During the 1930’s, the library purchased and moved to the two-story building at the corner of Circuit and Pennacook Avenues. Later, this building held Conroy Apothecary, and now remains vacant for a future housing project under the Island Housing Trust. The first floor had formerly housed William McNeil’s grocery store, and the second floor at one time had been used by a local post of the Grand Army of the Republic. Eventually, this building also proved too small and an addition was built by the Oak Bluffs Highway Department and dedicated in 1990.
With help from a state grant, construction of a brand new library began in spring 2004, and opened in October 2005. For the first time in its history, The Oak Bluffs Public Library operates in a building that was created specifically as a library.
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