The following is from the Somers Historical Society:
It all began in 1727, when 21-year-old Benjamin Franklin and others started a private membership library. With membership or subscription you could take out a book. Eventually in 1834, the New York Secretary of State had proposed a library model that would pave the way for the first public library system.
In 1835 there were about 500 libraries in the entire United States but that number grew rapidly to over 2,200 libraries in 1874 as book production and interest increased.
In 1874, Ralph Waldo Emerson, a famous poet, philosopher, and essayist passed away in Concord, Massachusetts. As fate would have it, Somers native Ruth Thompkins, who would found the Somers Library in 1875, had a sister Susan who married the nephew of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Through them, Ralph Waldo Emerson became one of the library’s first patrons. Consequently a portion of the original private collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson was given to the new Somers Library.
When Ruth Thompkins founded the library in 1875, it consisted of a shelf of books on the second floor of District Schoolhouse #2, which was located where Ivandell Cemetary is now. But in the early 1880s the library moved to a converted chicken coop across the street from the schoolhouse where it remained for 14 years.
In 1896, the library outgrew its chicken coop and moved to the former cobblers shop just across the way on Purdys Road near the fork with the North Somers Turnpike, Routes 202 and 116. It remained in its new home for 67 years until in 1963, when needing more room, it moved to a house next door where it remained until 1982. The former building was turned into a thrift shop called the “Somers Trunk” to help support the library.
A prominent Somers Resident, Carolyn Wright-Reis, was a shareholder of the library and was devoted to it throughout her life. She willed her family farm on Primrose Street to the Town of Somers in 1968.
So in 1982, the Town of Somers was able to build the wonderful, modern Somers Library on the lower acres of the Reis property, now developed as
Reis Park. With its community rooms, internet access, children’s corner, and so much more the Somers Library is a special place.
Today there are around 116,000 private, public, school, university, military, and corporate libraries nationwide. Our local library can access most of them for us.
What previous Somers generations have accomplished in 145 years were truly the “magic wand” of people like Ruth Thompkins. Job well done Ruth!