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Pettee Memorial Library Building in 1906

Pettee Memorial Library in 1906

The very first library in Wilmington was called the WILMINGTON SOCIAL LIBRARY and it began in 1796.   The “library”— which was one shelf of books — was kept in different homes and people took turns being “librarian.” It cost $1.50 to join the library and 50 cents a year after that.

The library became the WILMINGTON FREE LIBRARYin 1895. The librarian was the post master. The post office and the library were housed in the same building on East Main Street in Wilmington.  The Wilmington Free Library moved out of the post office and into the basement of the Town Hall in the early 1900’s. When the post office moved to the LaMorder Building on South River Street (now named South Main Street), the library moved with it.

Just as the library’s rent in the LaMorder Building was about to go up, Mr. Lyman Pettee came along and gave funds for a new library to be built.  Mr. Pettee, who grew up in Wilmington and also went to school here, named the building after his parents Anson and Lucy Pettee, PETTEE MEMORIAL LIBRARY. The building was completed in 1906 and is still the home of Wilmington’s public library today.

Today, the library houses over 16,000 materials (books, audio books, and movies for all ages) and has approximately 2,800 active users. The library’s Children’s and Young Adult departments are in the lower level along with three public access computers, including a wheelchair-accessible computer station. The library’s Adult Collection and circulation desk are in the upper level, which includes three additional public access computers and a photocopier. The upper level also houses the Margaret Greene Room, a comfortable space for readers to browse through newspapers and magazines, for wireless internet users to work, and for local groups to hold meetings.

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