The Williamstown Public Library was established in 1874 mainly through the efforts of Joseph White, a graduate of Williams College, later a trustee and treasurer of the College and a member of the Massachusetts Board of Education. The foundation of its collection was an agricultural library of about 100 volumes. At first it occupied two rooms over a hardware store and was open nine hours a week.
Because Williamstown is spread over a wide geographic area, three branch libraries were established in different sections of town, and they served local neighborhoods for many years. One branch became a part of the North Adams Public Library when the section of town in which it was located was annexed by the city of North Adams. Another branch closed in 1965, and low circulation figures caused the last one to close in 1979.
The main library moved to the Botsford House in 1940 when E. Herbert Botsford purchased the building and presented it to the town as a memorial to his daughter who had been killed in an automobile accident in 1915. The deed stipulated that the ground floor should house the public library and the second floor should serve as a space for the Williamstown House of Local History.
During the 1980′s the trustees of the library continued to look at ways of expanding the library facilities. Space became more and more cramped as the collection grew and circulation expanded. During the early 1990′s a plan was formulated for the library to move to the Pine Cobble School building as the private school moved to the High Croft School campus on Gale Road. David and Joyce Milne, owners of The High Croft School, gave the town the former Pine Cobble School as a gift in the exchange.
The David and Joyce Milne Public Library building, the former home of Pine Cobble School, was constructed in 1971 to replace the old school building which burned to the ground in January, 1970. The structure was designed by Martin Lowenfisch. The design of the building’s large arching front windows reflect the architect’s desire to capture the design themes of the First Congregational Church and Thompson Memorial Chapel located on Main Street. The building was constructed for $400,000.
The building required extensive renovation to transform it from a school to a public library. A Capital Campaign was launched. The community supported the endeavor with over $250,000. After three years of construction, the new library was dedicated on November 23, 1996. Construction was finally completed in 1999.
The present site is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It houses the Williamstown Historical Museum, a private organization dedicated to preserving Williamstown’s past. The library has three meeting rooms for eligible community groups to use. The parking lot contains space for 44 cars. The Sarah Tenney Osborne Garden graces the front of the library with a wide variety of flowers and plants echoing the surrounding Berkshire Hills. The building is 16,950 square feet.