A Brief History of Conant Public Library
The history of a library in Winchester dates back to 1813 when the Washington Library Association was formed. This was an outcome of the Washington Benevolent Society that had been active during the War of 1812. Being a shareholding association, one had the privilege of using the library if you purchased a share, the money from which was used to purchase new books. One share cost $1.00 per year. This arrangement continued until 1867 when the Association asked the town of Winchester to take over the collection and support it. The town accepted and moved 2,000 volumes of the collection, which had been housed in different buildings around town, to an upstairs room over the Power's Drug Store. For 16 years patrons climbed the dark, narrow stairway for their reading pleasures.
In 1888, the Ezra Conant will was presented to the town, asking that the town erect a building suitable for a library and establishing that when completed, there would be a sizable trust fund for the library, the interest from which would be used for the purchase of books and supplies, and to pay salaries. The buidling was completed in 1890, with the name "Conant Library" inscribed in the trim over the entrance. It opened in April of 1892.
During the 130 years of it's use, there have been very few changes in the building. Lighting, plumbing, heating and energy-saving measures have been resolved whenever there was a need.
In 1975, a sum of money was given to the library to renovate the two front rooms upstairs for a Historical Department. Winchester artifacts of all kinds were stored there for many years, and at one time the collection was open to the public one day a week. A Henry Pratt organ, made in Winchester in 1779 was restored by the Board of Trustees for a Bicentennial project. Two concerts on the organ were held each summer, drawing in many visitors. The historic collection of artifacts has introduced many students, townspeople and visitors to the rich and interesting heritage of our town. Conant Library was entered on the National Register of Historic Places on August 27, 1987.
Conant Library operates under the guidance of a nine-member Board of Trustees, and a Library staff of three, including a Director, Assistant Librarian and Circulation Assistant.