History of the Farmington Libraries

It started in the 18th century, with a few books on a librarian’s shelf; today, the Farmington Library and Barney Branch Library house over 165,000 items. It started as a place to read, exchange books, and talk; today, it is still that, but much more. It is where you go to borrow a book or tape or video; hear a speaker; research a term paper; find some information on the Internet; search for a new job; or watch your children discover the joy of reading. The library is at the heart of, and dedicated to, the community.

Subscription libraries, associations whose members bought shares and paid dues, existed in Farmington as early as 1712. In 1795 John Mix and John Treadwell founded the organization that later became the current Farmington Village Green & Library Association. Members of this “Library in the First Society of Farmington” gathered at Deacon Elijah Porter’s house to “exchange friendly greetings, to discuss the affairs of the State and the Church, the health of their families, the labor of their farms, and all the details of their everyday life”.

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By 1839, the Association was called The Farmington Library Company and was open to anyone who paid an annual fee of fifty cents. During the 19th century, books were kept in homes, then the Academy Building, then the Town Clerk’s office on School Street. In 1882 Julia Brandegee started a competing free library, the Tunxis Library. In 1890 the two merged to become the Village Library Company. When Sarah Porter died in 1900, she left the Village Library Company two acres of land across from the Elm Tree Inn on which to build a public library or maintain a park.

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In 1901 the Village Library Company became the Farmington Village Green & Library Association (FVGLA), a name it has carried for over 100 years. The FVGLA chose another site for a new library in 1917, and D. Newton Barney built the Village Library in memory of his mother, Sarah Brandegee Barney; this building, with the addition of a children’s wing in 1959 remains today as the Barney Library.

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In the west end of town in 1894, a new library in Unionville was a great success; in 1902 it was named the West End Library and was located in the Town Hall in Unionville until 1917, when a new Carnegie Library was built on School Street. In 1959 the West End Library Association merged with the FVGLA and the Carnegie Library became the West End Branch. Then in 1969, thanks to Austin D. Barney, the FVGLA bought the former Methodist Church Sunday School building just behind the Carnegie building to be renovated as the new West End Branch.

In 1980-81 the FVGLA, led by President Lucius (Buzz) Whitaker and continuing a long tradition of private fundraising, raised $1.7 million, sold the West End Brand to the Town for $400,000 for a Senior Center, and built the current Farmington Library at 6 Monteith Drive. The new library opened on August 1, 1983, and has served the townspeople since then, operating under a very successful public-private partnership between the Town of Farmington and the FVGLA. In 2003, after being closed for 18 months of renovation, the expanded building was re-opened to an enthusiastic public.

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