About the Library - History of the
Crandall Public Library

The establishment of Crandall Free Library, as it was known then, was marked by a dedication program in the Opera House in Glens Falls on November 10, 1892. Three months later, on February 9, 1893, a public library charter was a granted by the State of New York. The charter was amended in 1966 to include the Towns of Queensbury and Moreau in Crandall Public Library's service area.
That there was a need and a desire for a library in Glens Falls for many years before 1893 is evidenced by the fact that several earlier attempts, the first in 1835, had been made to establish small collections of books for circulation.

The history of Crandall Public Library itself dates back to a day in 1892 when Henry Crandall called at the office of Glens Falls superintendent of schools, Sherman Williams. Williams reported that to his surprise, Crandall said that he was willing to provide some funds for books and a place to keep them. Williams was even more surprised since Crandall was not a reader himself. Crandall proposed paying $2,500 for books, and providing the necessary furniture and a room to house the library. The library was located on the second floor of the business building next door to Crandall's No. 1 Bay Street residence.

Born into a family of meager means on the East side of Lake George in 1821, Henry Crandall received little formal education. As a young man, he went to work cutting trees near Indian Lake. Under the guidance of John Harris, a successful lumberman of Harrisena, Henry Crandall learned to save and to invest money. At age 29, with $1,000 in savings, he came to Glens Falls to live. Here he successfully invested in real estate and lumbering.

In 1858, Henry Crandall married Betsy Waters, a teacher from Horicon, New York. Soon he built a residence at No. 1 Bay Street on land which he later gave to Glens Falls as a city park. Next door to his residence he owned a business building, the second floor of which, in 1892, he offered to Dr. Williams for use as a library. Henry Crandall also had very definite ideas about how "his" library would operate. He said, " If I give money for a library, I want the books to be absolutely free to anybody who has interest enough in reading... I would be willing, to have the books go as far away as any person cared to come, even if it was as far as Quebec." And so, the library was established as Crandall wished, with free books and services, which continue to this day.

Later, Henry Crandall formed the Crandall Trust to which he conveyed, by his will, another business property at the corner of Glen and South Streets. The income from this property was to be used to support the library and two parks which he provided for the public. Henry Crandall died in 1913, and his wife, a year later. They are buried in Crandall Park, where the grave is marked by a tall granite shaft surmounted by a five-pointed star, his log mark.

From 1919 to 1931, while homes and business structures were being razed to make way for a new library building and for a city park, the library book collection was housed in the former Jerome Lapham residence, then on Ridge Street, north of the City Hall. The original section of the present library building was completed and opened in 1931. The architect was Charles Platt of New York City who also designed the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress.

The Holden Collection of Americana, consisting of about 2,500 pieces was acquired by Crandall Public Library in 1919. The collection was gathered by Dr. Austin W. Holden, author of A History of the Town of Queensbury, and by his son, James A. Holden, who has been State Historian. Another donation to the collection of works of history was that of A. B. Colvin and more recently, A. W. Miller. This collection of works of history relating to Northern New York and Vermont was regarded as one of the most complete of its kind in New York State.
In 1958, Crandall Public Library became a charter member of the Southern Adirondack Library System (SALS) and was designated as the central reference library of the system that serves Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Hamilton counties. With its designation as the Central Reference Library of SALS, Crandall Public Library has grown to a collection of more than 321,000 volumes of adult, nonfiction, fiction and juvenile collections, records, audio cassettes, CD's, video cassettes, DVDs, microform, electronic files and paper documents. Other library materials include subscriptions to over 350 magazines and newspapers. Fragile historic local newspapers are stored on microfilm. Microfilm readers and printers are available. All books and materials which circulate are available to library cardholders in the four counties, either directly or by interlibrary loan. Crandall Public Library has a fully automated circulation system. In addition, the library has terminals that access the catalog, and databases many of which provide full text access to periodical articles.  Remote access to library holdings and personal patron accounts—i.e. place reserve on item, renew items, etc.—is available on the Library’s web site (click here)   Within the Library public PCs have a high-speed connection with the Internet and a wireless Internet connection is available throughout the building .

As part of a ten-year plan to expand Crandall Public Library, it became necessary, in 1969, to provide more shelf and floor space. An addition was begun April 1, 1969 and completed in March 1970.  The addition was built by the Duplex Construction Company of Glens Falls, according to plans drawn by the office of William and Geoffrey Platt of New York City, whose father had designed the original building. In the original and new sections, together, shelf space was provided for approximately 180,000 volumes. Seating was provided for 180 readers. A ground-level elevator at the rear of the building provided access for the physically impaired to all floors. The original auditorium, seating 125 persons, was refurbished with the help of the Friends of Crandall Public Library to serve community groups for meeting purposes.

In the late 1990s Crandall Public Library Administration and the Board of Trustees recognized that the facility could no longer physically support the changing demands on library services.  The building needed to be renovated and expanded to meet the expectations of a 21st century public.  The Crandall Trust, incorporated in 1913, owns the building and the real property upon which it stands. Crandall Public Library has a thirty-five year lease with the Trust for the building and the land upon which the Library stands which expires in 2040.
In a show of public support and inter-governmental cooperation for the building project, the voters in the Towns of Moreau and Queensbury and the City of Glens Falls passed a $12.875 million Bond Act on November 5, 2005 which served as the major funding portion of the $18.8 million project. The Library’s “Continue the Legend Capital Campaign” raised the remaining $6 million.  The multi-year  project includes a 39,860 sf expansion, demolition of the 1969 addition of 14,028 sf and the renovation and historic preservation of the existing 12,640 sf historic 1931 library building for a total of 52,500 sf.  The original 1931 Platt building renovation blends beautifully with the modern proportional expansion towards Glen Street as designed by Ann Beha Architects of Boston, MA (with the support of Glens Falls’ own JMZ Architects).  The Library has pursued LEED certification as a “Green” building to increase energy efficiency, reduce energy costs, increase lighting efficiency and improve indoor air quality and customer satisfaction with the building. The increased square footage enhances the carrying capacity of the building, provides better access to collections both print and electronic, improves the building space layout and increases the effectiveness of library services with adequate space for all programs, collections and services.  The expanded facility has a large Community Room with a projection facility, and two smaller meeting rooms which can be booked by the public.  Library services are enhanced by activity rooms dedicated to children, a Family Focus Center, a Teen Center, a glassed-in Quiet Reading Porch, and a refurbished Folklife Center in the basement.

With the increased carrying capacity of the expanded facility and expanded access to collections, the circulation of materials has at the time of this writing already exceeded all standards by a significant percentage nine months after the end of construction and the December 12, 2009 Dedication Ceremony for the Library.  This is due in part to the implementation of an automated RFID circulation self-check and materials handling system.  As a result of this system staff is able to spend more time directly assisting the public.  Efficiency increases due to improved work areas, layout of work space and partial elimination of repetitive tasks. In addition to the park entrance where the handicapped ramp is located, there is a new street level entrance on Glen Street with an adjacent elevator—a second elevator is located within the 1931 building next to the park.  This design provides improved access for all library users including those with physical impairments, children in strollers, people with armloads of materials and anyone else who finds it difficult to walk up stairs. 

People will continue to be the focus of Crandall Public Library.  Our future will be determined by how we can best serve our community.  Our continued and growing popularity demonstrates that our newest undertaking is of the utmost priority—a Strategic Plan for the next several years.  Construction of this vision is an opportunity to again listen to our community’s needs and desires just a Henry Crandall envisioned all those years ago.