July 2018 upon the 125th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Library and the 25th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Folklife Center

The Historical Evolution of Crandall Public Library

The history of Crandall Public Library 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 (nearly $70,000 in 2018 dollars) for books, furniture, and a room to house the library.

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.

Crandall Free Library’s (as it was known then) formal establishment 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 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. 

In 1913, 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 was 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 is regarded as one of the most complete of its kind in New York.

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 347,000 volumes of adult, nonfiction, fiction, juvenile collections, records, audio cassettes, CD's, DVDs, microform, electronic files, paper documents, and internet access. Other library materials include subscriptions to over 350 magazines and newspapers. As part of the SALS system, Library users have access to the holdings of all member libraries.

As part of a ten-year plan to expand Crandall Public Library, it became necessary, in 1969, to provide more shelving 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.

Cooperative legislation between the City of Glens Falls and the Towns of Queensbury and Moreau created the Crandall Public Library Special Library District in 1992. 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 21stcentury public. Crandall Public Library has a thirty-five-year lease with the Crandall 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 included a 39,860 square foot (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 grand 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 was also granted 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.

With the increased capacities of the facility, the circulation of materials has exceeded all prior measurement standards by a significant percentage after the end of construction and the December 12, 2008, 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 workspace 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 utilize stairs.

Crandall Public Library is in its tenth year in the renovated and expanded space. Over 4,370,000 people have entered the Library between 2008 and October 31, 2018.  We have received New York State Library Construction aid to modify our existing second floor to include three quiet study rooms and office space for our teen staff.  We are also updating and replacing worn furniture, rugs, and infrastructure in order to keep up with our community’s desire for a “…clean, well-lighted, place for books,” and gatherings, and films, and children’s activities, and music, and lectures, and just “taking a load off.”