Miss Mary Eliza Scranton

Library service has been available to area residents since 1737 when the Four Town Library was founded serving Guilford (of which Madison was then a part), Killingworth, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook. In 1792 a local subscription library, the so-called "Farmers' Library", was established in East Guilford (Madison). The catalog of the library the following year lists about 260 volumes. During the 1860's, interest waned and the dwindling book collection was auctioned off to members.

However, in 1874 the East River Reading Room was opened and in 1878 the Madison Library Association was also organized. Membership was $1.00 a year; non-members could pay 5 cents per week per book. The collection was housed in various locations until 1895 when it was lost in a fire which destroyed the Boston Street School. Although there remained only 18 books, those in circulation at the time, within a year the Library Association was operating again in the corner of a local shoe store.

The inadequacies of this situation were resolved in 1900 when Miss Mary Eliza Scranton offered the Association the use of a new, completely furnished, library building which she had had built on the corner of Wall Street adjoining her family's old home. The offer was accepted, books moved in, and in 1901 the Association dissolved and the E. C. Scranton Memorial Library was incorporated.

The building was designed by Henry Bacon, an eminent New York architect who later designed the Lincoln Memorial. A New York firm of "contracting designers" were in complete charge of the architecture, construction, decorations and furnishings, the total cost of which was about $30,000. This original structure is the front section of the present building.

Miss Scranton offered the position of librarian to Mary L. Scranton with the condition that she first acquire the necessary training. The library's benefactress also gave annual gifts of $1500 which increased slightly through the years until 1913 when she established a trust fund of $56,875, the income to be used for library expenses. At this time Miss Scranton also deeded the building and grounds to the corporation.

The town, in 1900, had declared the newly formed association to be a free town library and agreed to contribute $100 annually for expenses. This continued until 1949 when the town gave $600 to meet rising expenses for which income from endowments was inadequate.

By the 1960's the building had become outmoded and crowded. The book collection had swelled from the original 1200 volumes to about 40,000 in 1965. To meet adequately the demands of a rapidly growing population, the board successfully raised $126,195.00 for a two story wing and the renovation of the original building. Over $100,000 of this amount consisted of donations. The state granted the library $12,500, and the remaining $12,000 came from library reserve funds.

In 1971 the Library Board, in its request for support from the town to bring the collection up to state standards by 1975, pledged to raise a minimum of one-third of the annual book budget through its own efforts. The Library Ball and the annual Book Fund Drive are two major money raising efforts that originated at this time. As a result of these efforts the library's collection was drastically increased. The Parade of Parties, a community wide effort to host many types of parties raising funds for the Library, started in 2001.