The history of the Wellfleet Public Library is a long story of generous and continuous public support. It is told that during the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War, a few men met and each laid a dollar on the table to provide for free reading material for the Town of Wellfleet.
1873 The parish and members of the First Congregational Church by means of entertainments and other fund raising, gathered and circulated books from a little "cubby-hole" in the corner of the vestry. this "first library" is still in the church.
1893 In response to the Massachusetts Library Act of 1890, the town accepted $100 worth of books and temporarily established the "Workers Circulating Library" with 1,827 volumes on the second floor of the old Wellfleet Savings Bank. This elegant building with its distinctive mansard roof still stands at the corner of Bank and Commercial Streets. Later that year, the library was moved to a building on Main Street ownded by Capt. John Swett. In 1909 this building, with its entire collection of 2,500 books, was destroyed by fire.
1910 New quarters were rented on the second floor of the dry-goods store on Main Street owned by Mrs. Payne W. Higgins. Friends of the library who were raising funds for a new library rallied public support and soon replaced the books and persuaded the town to acquire the building, now the Wellfleet Historical Society.
1919-1950 The Second Congregational Church in South Wellfleet, known as "Colonial Hall," was moved in 1919 to the center of Wellfleet to be used as Memorial Hall. In 1940, this now derelict building was rescued from condemnation and demolition by the summer colony and the year-round residents of Wellfleet and restored to serve as town offices. In 1950, the upper floor of Town Hall was made available for the Library according to a long anticipated plan.
1960 During a severe blizzard, the Hall with the Library burned to the ground. The building was reconstructed by 1961 and the lost library restored once again with appeals for the contributions of books. Patrons of the library fondly remember those pleasant, cramped quarters where books overflowed to piles on the floor and in the corners. Volunteer committees worked for twelve years to find a larger central location. They finally settled on a former curtain factory built in 1931 on West Main Stree which had been converted into a candle factory.
1989 On one fall day more than 100 volunteers moved 25,000 books from the cramped 2000 square feet of Town Hall to the beautifully renovated 10,000 square feet of the new building. The new public space permitted a dramatic expansion and focus of the Town's cultural and civic life.
1996 In step with the burst in information technology, the library went on line with CLAMS, an electronic catalogue of Wellfleet's holdings as well as those of the other public libraries on the Cape and Islands. The staff, with the help of dozens of volunteers, brought the library's capabilities into the 21st century.
With its hospitable atmosphere and wide range of services and activities, the libary is the acknowledged treasure of Wellfleet.