Former Lives of Libraries: Rensselaerville Library
by Dana Willbanks, Communications and Marketing Manager
The Town of Rensselaerville had one of the first libraries in Albany County, although it did not have a permanent home until almost 100 years after its inception. The Federal Library was established in 1798 by the townspeople. The collection of roughly 200 books, read by the library's 186 patrons, was housed throughout the Town in any place where space was available. Robert P. Lewis earned $3.00 per year (yep, you read that right!) for his position as Librarian.
Today, the library collection is significantly larger, and lives in what was originally a boot shop. Following a brief hiatus in 1832 the library resumed services, and in 1896 the town’s citizens again met to discuss the future of their library. The new Rensselaerville Reading Room and Library Association opened in 1899 in the former boot shop, donated by William Felter. In 1906 the library was purchased by Francis Conkling Huyck Sr., who renovated the building and added the Tudor façade still seen today.
In 1921 the New York State Education Department chartered the Rensselaerville Library as an association library, charged to serve the town and surrounding communities. In 1996 the Library acquired adjacent property from the estate of Vivian Anderson Borthwick who made history when, at the age of 15, she was the youngest public librarian in New York State (and still a high school student). She earned $10 a month in 1929, a big jump up from Robert P. Lewis’ original $3 annual salary.
Today, the Rensselaerville Library is a member of the Upper Hudson Library System, and the current collection contains more than 27,000 items - a much better selection for the library’s patrons than the original 200 volumes. In addition to the books, magazines, audiobooks, e-books, CDs, DVDs, and other items, the library provides computer and internet access, references services, a multi-purpose community room, and a wealth of beneficial programs and services to its patrons.
Source: Rensselaerville Library