WFPL at 100

As we dive into our celebration of the library’s 150th anniversary, I found myself wondering about the 100th. Here’s a time machine to take you back half a century.

1969 was, by any standard, a momentous year. Woodstock, Apollo 11, and Stonewall made headlines as burgeoning social and political movements roiled the U.S. and the world. Closer to home, contract negotiations for teachers heated up over the course of the summer, while a proposed Jack-in-the-Box drive-through stirred up controversy in the fall. The “A” branch of the Green Line made its last run from Park Street Station to Watertown Square, and the B.F. Goodrich plant (formerly Hood Rubber Co.) closed, affecting around 1,000 workers.

HoodRubber_1969aerial crop

From the town’s Annual Report, we have evidence of a declining birth rate: 691 births, as compared with 1,023 just five years before. (The Baby Boom is often said to end in the mid-1960s, so in retrospect, this pattern seems right.) School enrollment, however, stood at a healthy 6,407; as of October 2014, that figure was down to about 2,600. The Recreation Department stepped up to help entertain all those school-aged kids by launching Camp Pequosette. The town created the Historical Commission, partly in anticipation of the U.S. bicentennial in 1976. And dog licenses increased by 30% over the previous year, apparently not because of an upswing in the dog population, but because of a new (and more diligent) dog officer.

star market

rca tv sale         gorins back to school

As it approached its 100th year, the Watertown Free Public Library was recognized at a Town Meeting as “an institution of incalculable value to the town.” Here are some figures reported in 1969, along with their contemporary equivalents (as of June 2018), that attempt to put a value on what the library offers:

1969 current
registered borrowers 14,864 24,665
books for children 32,817 51,108[1]
books for adults 98,327 69,946
magazine subscriptions 284 128
newspaper subscriptions 22 13
record albums 2,290 4,500[2]
total circulation 242,099 679,441[3]

As you can see, we’re busier than we were at 100! But as we endeavor (as stated in our mission) “to connect people to ideas, information, education, creative opportunities, and to each other,” we hope that our true value remains incalculable.

– Brita, Digital Services Librarian

All newspaper images originally printed in The Watertown Sun, 1969.
[1] This total excludes the Young Adult collection, which adds another 6,869 books!
[2] These are, of course, music CDs – though more and more public libraries have started loaning LPs again.
[3] This figure includes circulation of digital materials – still the realm of science fiction in 1969.

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