History of the Library
On May 18th, 1912 a group of women from the hamlet of Brookhaven founded the Fireplace Literary Club for the purpose of establishing a library for the residents of the hamlet. The name Fireplace was used to commemorate the former name of the hamlet, which had been known as Fire Place until 1871. Sixteen charter members of the club acquired approximately 242 books through donations from private libraries.
By July there were between 400 and 500 books available, and they were kept in the two-room schoolhouse that stood on the site of the present Brookhaven Elementary School building. During World War I, the collection was moved to Mr. Malcolm Fraser’s studio, and in 1919, the collection was moved to the home of Mrs. Florence Gwynne. Subsequently, it was felt that the library should have a permanent home, and in 1926 Mr. and Mrs. James H. Post offered to give a plot of land on which to erect a library building. This offer was accepted, and the main part of the present building was built that same year. Thus, on June 3, 1926, the literary club held its first meeting in the new building at 273 Beaver Dam Road. Soon it was felt that the library should be open to all residents of the hamlet. Accordingly, in the spring of 1929 the Brookhaven Free Library was incorporated.
On June 19, 1930 a provisional charter was granted by the State of New York. The Literary Club deeded over the books and a bond for $1,000.00. They also agreed to pay a specified amount every year toward the running expenses of the library. In exchange for $1.00, Mr. Post turned over the deed for the property and another $1,000 bond to the trustees of the Brookhaven Free Library. On November 30, 1951, an Absolute Charter was granted by the State of New York. The library continued to flourish, and in 1957, a children’s room was added at a cost of $7,175, which was financed through the sale of library owned securities and donations from the community, the largest gift being that of Mr. C. Oliver Wellington.
In 1969 property was purchased adjacent to the library from Mrs. Marjorie Worth for possible use as a parking lot. This property cost $4,600, and was not to be used for parking while Mr. and Mrs. Worth still occupied their home. In 1970 a second addition was built on the north side of the building. The total cost for the addition, book shelves and furniture was $33,525 and was financed by private contributions and a $10,000 bank loan, which was repaid from endowment funds. In December, 1961 the Brookhaven Free Library joined the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. In the 1970s the library’s service boundaries expanded to include the entire South Country school district. In 1985 the Bellport Library changed its name to the South Country Library to reflect this change. Residents of the school district pay taxes for, and may hold cards at both libraries. In 1989 a larger children’s room was desired and constructed on the north end of the building. The original children’s room became the ‘mystery” room, and was used to house the mystery and large print collections. In 2005 a programming room was added on the west end of the 1989 addition. It was necessary to limit the size, as a parking lot, which still had not been constructed on the property, was deemed necessary by the Town, if the building exceeded the allowable square footage. As no one wanted to remove the wonderful mature trees which fill the back portion of the lot, it was decided to forgo a parking lot, and keep the programming room small. In 2007, the library received a New York State construction grant, and combined it with saved investment funds to complete a major interior renovation at a cost of just over $200,000. This renovation included new shelving, fresh paint throughout, rearrangement of furniture and collections, new lighting, computers, and an upgrade of the electrical service. The goal of this renovation, which was completed in early 2008, was to unify all the disparate parts and additions that had been added over the years, and to bring the building into ADA compliance, as well as to update the computer systems and wiring to accommodate modern technology.
The building as it stands today retains very much the original look and feel of the 1923 construction, while accommodating the needs of the modern library user. The Fireplace Literary Club continues to meet here a minimum of four times per year, and to make a donation for children’s programming. As of 2009 the library has a total of 18 employees, including the Director, 4 full time clerks, 2 part time clerks, 3 full time Children’s staff, 2 part time Children’s Library Assistants, 5 pages, and a part time custodian.