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Library History

Click here to see a collection of digitized historical photographs of Scarsdale, including but not limited to the Library itself.

In 1925, Scarsdale residents John W. and Mary F. Dickinson gave 2,500 books to start a library and a $10,000 trust fund to maintain them. The library was housed at Scarsdale High School. On February 28, 1928, the Village Board voted to establish the Scarsdale Public Library; two months later, it secured the right to assess a tax for library equipment and maintenance. On April 26, 1928, the Regents of the State of New York granted a charter incorporating the library. The library opened at Wayside Cottage on October 28, 1928 at which time 100 residents raised $15,000 for services, materials and equipment.

In 1944 the Village Board endorsed the Town Club’s recommendation of a library site in the 11 acre Harwood Park north of the high school. It was agreed that part of the funds would be raised by public subscription; to this end the Friends of the Scarsdale Library was formed in May 1946. The Village set up a reserve fund for public buildings. The new library was its first project, but construction was not authorized until 1950.

The new building opened on September 30, 1951. Total cost was $316,900, of which the Village paid $207,303. Contributions accounted for the remainder, and included gifts from the Friends of the Library, the Junior League, the War Memorial Fund, and remaining funds from the Dickinson donation.

Twenty years later, it was determined that an addition was needed due to increases in the population of the Village, the number of cardholders and the size of the collection. A new wing, containing an additional 7,800 square feet, increased the original size of the building of 11,700 square feet by 50%. The total cost of the addition, exclusive of a program room, was estimated at $775,000. On February 5, 1973, Scarsdale voters approved an $800,000 bond issue to be paid off in 20 years. The $180,000 cost of the program room was given impetus by the generous initial gift of the S. Spencer Scott family. Additional financial support came from the Scarsdale Foundation, the Friends of the Scarsdale Library and other Village organizations. In addition, over 300 individuals donated money to the project. Funding for a local history alcove came from the family of John K. Starkweather. The new addition was opened on June 22, 1975.

In 1981, a gift of $12,500 was given by George Jaffin to construct a conference room in the main part of the library.

In 1995, the Children’s Room was renovated, funded by a gift of $100,000 from Alfred and Luella Slaner. The room was named the Finney Children’s Room, in honor of Eleanor and Burnham Finney, long time volunteers on behalf of the library.

The main reading room, part of the 1975 addition, had been designed to include a mezzanine; however, it was not built at that time. In 1998, the mezzanine was added to the library, using a gift from Luella Slaner of $900,000. The original architect of the 1975 addition designed the project.

In 2007, the Reference Room was renovated, using a gift of $300,000 from the Virginia and Leonard Marx Foundation.

The Scarsdale Library, in its 25,000 square foot building, houses approximately 147,000 items. In 2011, it ranked 6th among the 38 libraries in Westchester in both the number of items circulated (397,084) and Reference questions answered (53, 560).