Watertown Library Association

established 1865

Celebrating 150 Years of Sevice

The Watertown Library Associaton has been serving the reading and research needs of the Watertown and Oakville Communities since 1865.

Our mission is to provide our patrons with access and guidance to materials, resources and services for their information, education and enrichment of life. Through computer technology we provide access to our own collections as well as outside resources.

The year 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of our founding.

In recognition of this milestone, we've put together a timeline of our history along with a few other items of interest.


Did You Know

  • Our History

    a timeline

Library Founding

Rev. Dr. William H. Lewis, the rector of Christ Church leads a meeting to establish a Watertown Library Association.

The first Watertown Library is housed in an upper room of the Academy building. Nancy E. Bronson is appointed the first librarian.

The original library collection consisited of 500 books and a few standard magazines. There were 96 annual subscribers.


Location Moved

As the collection expanded, the Watertown Library moves to an upper room above the F.N. Barton Store on Woodbury Road.


Subscriptions Increase

By 1868, the Watertown Library collection had expanded to include 743 books and 20 periodicals. There were now 146 annual subscribers and the annual budget for the association totaled $986.


Association Incorporates

Dr. John DeForest donates $5000 to establish a perpetual fund for the Watertown Library.

His family will donate $46,500 over the years to the Watertown Library Association.


New Building Completed

The first independent Watertown Library building is completed at the cost of $14,050. The new stone building is located on DeForest Street.


Assistant Librarian Appointed

Miss Jennie Smith is appointed assistant librarian.


Donations and Bequests

Dr. John DeForest donates a second $5000 to the Watertown Library Association. At his death, 2 years later, he leaves the library another $10,000.

Other notable bequests are made by: Leman W. Cutler, the 1st president of the Association, Caleb T. Hickox and Henry Platt.

Donations and bequests from the Heminway, Merriman and Woodward families and well as many others continue to fund the library to this day.


First Librarian Retires

After 38 years and 6 months, Miss Bronson retires from her position as the head librarian at the Watertown Library Association. Miss Jennie Smith, the assistant librarian, is appointed Head Librarian.


Oakville Library Association

The Oakville Library Association is formed by 28 people in a small room in South School. Marion Cooper is appointed librarian for the Oakville Library.


Subscriptions Increase

By 1915, the Watertown Library collection had expanded to include 13,265 books and 2,281 periodicals. There were now 850 borrowers.


New Location for Oakville Library

Oakville Library moves to the Oakville Congregational Church.

Carrie Woodruff, the first cousin of Marion Cooper, takes over as librarian at the Oakville Library.


Curtiss Collection

An addition to the Watertown Library is built in order to house the Curtiss Collection of rare books.


Oakville Library Location Changed

The Oakville Library moves back to it's original location at South School.


Children's Room Proposed

Mrs. Henry "Granny" Scovill proposes an area for the children of the Watertown Library Association. She donates $3000 for the formation of a special room for children at the Watertown Library.

On November 15, 1940, the Children's Room opens at the Watertown Library Association.


Expansion Thoughts

With the increase in annual subscribers it was decided that Watertown Library did not have enough land and needed to relocate to a new site with more space for parking and future additions.


Standardized Operating Hours

Mrs. Shons takes over as head librarian at the Watertown Library.

Before Mrs. Shons is appointed head librarian, the library was only opened at odd hours, Mrs. Shons revolutionizes the library by integrating standardized hours and days for the library to be open.

With the implementation of standardized operating hours, people could plan when to visit the library and not be concerned that the library would be closed when they arrived.


Plans For New Library Proposed

Plans for a new library on Main Street are proposed with the option to purchase property from the Pierpont family.

Through a gift from Mrs. John K. Ottley and the efforts of Bartow L. Heminway, a substantial amount of money is raised for the building of the new library.


Building Committee Formed

The fund for the new library is significantly increased through gifts from the Watertown Foundation and the Veterans of WWII.

Alex J. Campbell leads the building committee for the modern libary with an approxiamte cost of $100,000.00. The new library building would be of gray block interior with large windows. Its location would be 470 Main Street.


New Building Opens

The Watertown Library at 470 Main Street opens to the public.


Friends of the Library

The Friends of the Watertown Library Association is founded in order to raise money for capital expenses and programs.


Property Purchased

The Smith property to the south of the main library is purchased for $30,000 for future expansions.


Associations Merge

The Watertown and Oakville Library Associations merge.

The Boards of the Watertown & Oakville Library Associations "agree that the best interests of the Town of Watertown would be served by having one Library Board and one Library Corporation to administer all library services in the Town of Watertown."

A proposal for a new Oakville Branch Library is put forth and it is agreed to establish a permanent library building in the Oakville section of town.


Collection Expanded

By 1970, the Watertown Library collection had expanded to include 80,838 items in circulation.


New Oakville Branch Library Opens

Construction for the new Oakville Branch Library at 55 Davis Street is completed.


Watertown Library Renovations

A 7000 sq ft addition is completed at the main library. This new addition currently houses the majority of the children's library collection.


New Technology

The Watertown Library goes live on its first integrated library system. This allowed for automated circulation, inventory and patron database. There were three circulation terminals.

Three migrations later, the library still operates on an integrated library system, but now our patrons can browse the catalog on their phones and download eBooks.


World Wide Web

The first Watertown Library web site is launched.


Oakville Branch Renovations

In 2003, the Oakville Branch Library underwent a complete renovation.

The branch houses a children's collection and popular adult reading, as well as, a meeting room.


Present Day Statistics

The Watertown Library Association has 13,005 registered borrowers.

52 percent of all Watertown and Oakville residents have a library card.

The library collection currently has 74,360 printed materials in circulation along with 5,000 ebooks, videos, CDs, DVDs and streaming video.


Fun Facts

Library Cards Issued
Patrons Served
Items In Circulation
Ebook Downloads
Reference Questions
Catalog Requests


  • Get In Touch

    contact us

Watertown Library Association

470 Main Street, Watertown CT 06795

(860) 945-5360


Oakville Branch Library

55 Davis Street, Oakville CT 06779

(860) 945-5368


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