Our History

What’s In A Name?

In 1852, when Brewster was flourishing with the wealth of homecoming sea captains and the vigor of many small businesses, the Brewster Ladies’ Library came into being.

Two young women, Sarah Augusta Mayo and Mary Louise Cobb, engaged in the ambitious project of interesting their friends in the town’s need for a library. They were so successful that twelve founding ladies established a subscription library in the home of Captain Mayo, at the site of the home now at 1772 Main Street. It opened to the public on January 29, 1853. (Men were allowed to borrow books, but they had to pay more than the ladies. That rule was dropped in time.)

From its early days, the library depended heavily on fund-raising projects to buy books and meet growing demands. When the bookshelf library became inadequate, Captain Joseph Nickerson contributed $1,000 to start a library building fund. In 1868, the quaint structure facing Main Street was erected. It contained two comfortable parlors lined with bookshelves, each with a fireplace.

In 1877, an additional room was added in the rear.
In 1976, the library was expanded once again with a new addition, and in 1985, the basement became the children’s library.
The 1997 addition doubled the floor space and provides an auditorium and two small meeting rooms. Brewster’s library has grown from shelves with 200 volumes in 1853 to a large building housing over 50,000 volumes – and is still growing.
Many people wonder why, in these gender neutral days, the “Brewster Ladies’ Library” is still used. As can be seen, the name evolved from the founding group – 12 Brewster ladies. In the 1970s an objection was raised to the name because of the possibility of misinterpretation – that men were not allowed. However, in an overwhelming vote at the annual library meeting, the decision was made to go with history and keep the name. In 1999, “Your Community Library” was added to the name to avoid confusion.