The origin of the West Falmouth Library began with five young women who wanted to enrich their lives in the quiet farming village of West Falmouth in the mid 1870’s. They formed a club, The Young People’s Union that met weekly for musical and literary programs. From that beginning the young women grew the collection of books through membership and weekly dues so that by 1879 they owned 50 volumes. A closet in the Gifford home became the first library for the village. After moves to the old Methodist Church and then to a second-floor office of the tag factory (since burned down), a group of men from the village built the first library building on Depot Street, now Old Dock Road. The building was later moved to a site close to the West Falmouth Market where it operated for fifteen years.
In 1891, the Young People’s Union was dissolved and replaced with the present organization, the West Falmouth Library Association. It received its State Charter in 1893. At that time, the Library possessed 800 books.
R.J. and Abby (Grant) Mendenhall of Minneapolis donated the land on which the Library is now situated. The construction of the Library was made possible through the generosity of D. Wheeler Swift. The present Library building was then built and subsequently dedicated on July 15, 1896, supported by townspeople and summer residents alike. Almost 1,000 books were moved from the smaller premises to the grand new building. Wheeler Swift’s bequest in 1910 helped the Library to attain a steady financial base. An endowment fund, established in 1959, formed the financial basis that has helped the Library to respond to the challenges of maintaining the building and to evolve in the information age.
The Library started a building fund in 1971 to add more space for shelving, storage, a kitchen and additional meeting space for organizations such as the Preschool Cooperative that sought to become a tenant of the Library. The addition was completed in 1972. The Library acquired the parcel of land next door in 1997, as “Land for the Future”, which contains Jane’s Memorial Garden for the pleasure of all visitors. In July 2007 the Library opened to the public and in April 2008 began operating on the CLAMS library network and began circulating its collection of books and media of over 13,000 items to patrons.
The West Falmouth Library remains an independent, non-profit organization, supported by an annual appeal fund, gifts, bequests, and an annual stipend from the Town of Falmouth. Throughout its history the Library has thrived as the informal community center of West Falmouth, serving the wide community of Falmouth with educational, informational, and entertaining events. It is the aspiration of the Library Board and its Staff to expand library and community services to residents and visitors alike through its collection of books and other media and through diverse programs that are relevant to all.