, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 27, 2014

Landmarks of learning


Cynthia Dadd, head librarian, said that both print and electronic resources will be offered for many years to come.

“Print is down somewhat, but there is still strong demand,” Dadd said. “They will co-exist for a long time.”

She said the library has added numerous digital assets, including programs to learn languages, appreciate music, study technology, download electronic books and trace one’s ancestry.

Thus an institution created from the spoils of shipping and privateering of the 18th century has morphed into a vibrant community center utilizing both hard-copy books and documents and digital assets to tie the community to the larger world in the 21st century.

The city’s ‘little’ library grows

The Emma Andrews Library at 77 Purchase St. had more modest beginnings, but its history has been marked by an equal amount of persistence and love of learning.

The story goes that in 1886, school Principal Anna Coffin and teacher Emma Landers wanted a children’s library in the old Johnson Grammar School in the South End.

A library in a school was not the norm then; and when the city proposed creating such a library there in 1899, city leaders were unable to fund the project.

So citizens donated $52, and a reading room was established at 17 Union St. The South End Reading Room Association was formed in 1900 and Emma Landers Andrews served as the energetic secretary.

Records show that in that year, it had 303 registered borrowers.

Perhaps because of such success, a house at 77 Purchase St. was purchased in 1905 for $3,500 and it still functions today.

Emma Andrews continued to be active in the library until her death in 1928.

In 1931, the “little” library was turned over to the city with the stipulation that it be used as a branch of the Newburyport Public Library.

The informal learning center served many for decades but faced hardship in 2009, when it was closed due to high levels of lead.

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