Photo Courtesy of the Beacon Historical Society.
A Brief History of the Howland Public Library
The meeting to establish the Howland Circulating Library was January 5, 1872.
It was held in the director’s room of the First National Bank of Fishkill Landing.
The library was named after General Joseph Howland, the first president of the library board. The library was housed in what is now the Howland Cultural Center designed by Richard Morris Hunt, one of the founders of the American Institute of Architects. The library building was opened on August 5, 1872.
Photo courtesy of the Beacon Historical Society.
Almost 100 years later, the building was deemed no longer adequate for community library needs. On December 1, 1969, a Friends group was formed to help construct a new public library. On December 30, 1971, the Board of Trustees completed the purchase of the Ritter Building, the former Fishman’s Department Store at 313 Main Street. The building was dedicated on September 20, 1976. The library opened, despite having only $50,000 of an estimated $250,000 needed to renovate the building.
In May 1985, voters in the Beacon City School District voted to change the library’s status from an association library to a school district public library. For the first time, library trustees were elected by voters in the BCSD.
In 1992, voters in the Beacon City School District voted 2:1 to keep the Howland Public Library open.
In 1997, New York State Law was changed to allow the public to vote directly on the library budget.
In 1999, the library board established a Blue Ribbon Panel of community leaders, library staff and trustees to study community needs. In 2000, the Blue Ribbon Panel determined that all library needs could only be met in a facility adequate to the community needs, including parking.
Based upon advice of library building consultants, a list of library architects, several local, were sent a request for qualifications. Ultimately, Michael Graves & Associates was selected. The Board’s vision was to enhance the community streetscape with an architecturally significant new public building, much as General Howland did in 1872. That project was defeated in 2005.
That year, and for the next three, proposed Howland Public Library budget increases were also defeated. The library was forced to cut 19% of library and staff hours. HPL is now open one hour above the minimum required by state law.
In 2009, the library board reverted to the practice of holding the trustee election and budget referendum in the library, apart from the Beacon City School District. Every budget increase since 2009 has passed by a wide margin. Great effort goes into cultivating and maintaining support for the library in the community.