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Library History

Emma S. Clark | Thomas Hodgkins | Anna Morand

1889 August 2
Emma S. Clark, beloved niece of millionaire confectioner, philanthropist, and Setauket resident Thomas Hodgkins, dies.

1891 June 23
The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library Association is incorporated with benefactor Thomas Hodgkins as President.

1892 October 3
After eight and a half months of construction, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library is opened on the birthday of Emma S. Clark. The total cost of the grounds, building, fixtures, and 1,500 books is $12,000. Anna Morand is appointed the first librarian.  Resident Elizabeth Strong receives the first library card. Among the Library’s rules – cardholders must be at least twelve years old and pay an annual membership fee of ten cents. Sadly, Thomas Hodgkins is too ill to attend the opening ceremonies; he dies less than two months later.

The Ladies’ Library and Reading Club is formed, the forerunner of today’s Book Discussion Group.

The first electric lights are installed.

Membership fees, which had risen to 25 cents a year, are eliminated.

The Library is certified by the State of New York.

The Library is awarded a prize by the New York Library Association for superior service.

The Library is closed from August through October for renovations. Lighting and heating systems are improved, and indoor plumbing is installed. The Library reopens on November 3. The book stacks, which had been previously off-limits to members, are now open to the public.

In December, a small cottage on the Library grounds, which had been used as a residence for librarians and, more recently, as a rental property, is destroyed by fire.

The first services specifically for children, including story time, are inaugurated.

The Library gets its first telephone.

The basement is excavated and renovated between May and July to allow additional book shelving space.

Air conditioning is installed.

With the population of the Three Village area approaching 8,000 and the Library’s collection reaching 15,000 books, the decision is made to expand.

A two-story addition, comprising the present new fiction area and downstairs community room, is completed and opens to the public.

With the Library’s book collection surpassing 90,000 volumes and the local population nearing 46,000, Three Village voters approve a second expansion project.

After a year and a half of construction, the Library celebrates the completed expansion with a grand reopening on January 24. The new space includes the former Children’s Room, Adult Reference area and book stacks, and mezzanine.

The Library’s holdings and borrower records are entered into a computer database for the first time, allowing for quicker and more efficient circulation. An automated replacement for the card catalog will follow eight years later.

1992 October 3
The Library commemorates its first 100 years with special ceremonies following a year-long schedule of celebrations and centennial programs.

The 24-Hour Library : Members can now “dial in” from home to the Library’s on-line catalog to check holdings, place reserves, and renew borrowed material.

Emma in Cyberspace: The Library launches its site on the World Wide Web.

The Library completes a new building expansion project. The expansion includes a new Children’s Library, expanded Adult Services and increased parking.

2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

The Library ranks as the number one library in Suffolk County, according to the Hennen American Public Library Ratings Index. (This rating system ended in 2010)

The chimney on the original 1890s building is restored to its original beauty.

In the Teen and Children’s departments, video games now a part of the circulating collection.

The Library extends Sunday hours to open starting at 10:00 a.m. A new “Library of Things” collection with non-traditional items is made available for patrons to borrow.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Library pivoted to many new online offerings, some of which were very popular and continue today.

The Library breaks ground on a new construction project, including an outdoor terrace, reimagining of the flow of the main reading room, and a cafe.

Work on the newly constructed outdoor terrace is complete, adding approximately 800 square feet for public use.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library is Suffolk County’s oldest public library in terms of continuous community service from its original location. The Library’s collection of books, periodicals, audio, video, and software products totals over 200,000 items and serves a population of over 48,000. Firmly rooted in a century-old tradition of meeting the public need, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library continues to explore new means and technologies to serve the needs of the Three Village community today and tomorrow.