Citizens of Troy became interested in establishing a public library long before many cities of comparable size. Discussion concerning such a library actually began with a letter from an anonymous ‘Citizen of Troy’ in the November 13, 1799 Troy Northern Budget appealing for the establishment of a public library in order to “work out the salvation of, consummate the happiness of, and conduct to every door a correction of morals and a source of mental improvement” for the people of Troy. A collection of books became available for circulation, and a group of stockholders was formed in 1800. The library’s search for a permanent home spans 96 years.
For many years the library moved to and from offices and homes of those who had been designated librarian. In 1820, when it was housed above the River Street Drug Store of that year’s librarian, Ira Wells, 190 of its 687 volumes were destroyed by fire. By 1835, soon after the incorporation of the Troy Young Men’s Association, the library and that organization joined forces in an effort to seek a more permanent location for a public library. In 1845, the Troy Library voted to disband and turn its property over to the Troy Young Men’s Association. In 1846, the collection was moved to its first somewhat more permanent home in the Athenaeum Building, which the Young Men’s Association rented from the Troy Savings Bank. Two other important events in the library’s history took place during this period. In 1859, the first complete catalog of the Troy Young Men’s Association was produced, listing 12,067 volumes. Several copies of this catalog still exist. In 1869, the library became a Federal Government Depository Library, a status it still maintains.
In 1877 another group, the Free Reading Room of Troy, was incorporated with the goal of providing library service to the citizens of Troy. Operating since 1874, it began at the Holly Tree Inn with the cooperation of its owner, but later moved to the basement of City Hall, then to a room in the Post Office. Trustees of the Free Reading Room wished to merge their small collection with that of the Young Men’s Association and to make the entire stock available to Troy citizens at no charge. In 1879, the Young Men’s Association and the Free Reading Room came together and agreed on what they called “The Public Library Enterprise.” The Young Men’s Association later purchased the Athenaeum Building, and in 1885 Troy had its first permanently housed public library. (Troy Public Library)
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