The Lowell City School Library – 1844

From the Pollard Memorial Library’s “Library History” webpage:

Lowell’s public library was founded on May 20, 1844 by an enactment of the Lowell City Council. At the time, the idea of “free” public libraries supported by solely by municipalities was a relatively new one, but the leaders of Lowell clearly believed in the idea of investing in the betterment of its citizens. The library, originally named the “Lowell School Library” opened its doors for the first time on February 11, 1845 in the Old City Hall building at the corner of Merrimack and Shattuck Streets. The holdings of this library constituted approximately 3,500 volumes and there was a fifty cents annual fee for use. In 1860, the library’s name was changed to “City Library of Lowell” and in 1873, having outgrown its space, the library was moved a short ways down Merrimack Street to the Masonic Temple in the historic Hosford Building. The library was made free in 1883 and in 1888 a board of trustees was appointed for the first time.



By-Laws of the Lowell City School Library

Any person resident in the City shall be permitted to enjoy the privileges of the City School Library by paying fifty cents per annum, and by giving references or security for the safe-keeping and return of the books, satisfactory to either of the directors or the librarian; and no subscription shall be received for less than one year.

The librarian shall register in a book prepared for that purpose, to be kept in the library room, the name of every subscriber to the City School Library, together with his place of residence in the City, and the reference, if any, furnished by him; and shall not deliver any book to any person not so registered.

The library shall be open and the librarian shall attend for the delivery and return of books, every week-day and evening, (except Wednesday evening, and unless some public festival or customary holyday shall interfere,) from 2 till 5 and from 7 to 9 in the afternoon of each of those days.

The librarian shall deliver to any subscriber on application, one volume, which may be kept, if a folio or quarto, four weeks ; an octavo, three  weeks ;  a book of less size, two weeks, and no longer,  under a penalty of six  cents per week; or subscribers may exchange their books once in three days.-No subscriber, on returning a book, shall be at liberty to take the  same again  within one week, and no book shall be reserved for any subscriber by the librarian.

The librarian shall enter in a book kept for that purpose the number of every volume delivered by him, the name of the subscriber to whom delivered, and when returned; also the fines and penalties incurred by such subscriber.

No book shall be delivered to the order of any subscriber unless the order shall be in writing.

The librarian shall make and keep an accurate catalogue of all books belonging to the City School Library, and shall number the same.

If any subscriber lose or materially injure a book, he shall furnish another copy of equal value, in good condition, and of the same or later edition, or pay the librarian’s appraisement, at his option. If the book so lost or injured, be a part of a set, he shall replace or pay for the entire set, and may thereupon receive the remaining volumes as his property.

The librarian shall appraise all damages done to the books by subscribers·and cause said books to be repaired and replaced as the case may be.

All books shall be returned annually on or before the first day of April, on which the library shall be open, for the purpose of being examined by the directors of the library, and any subscriber having any book and failing to return the same, shall forfeit and pay a fine of one dollar for such delay.

The librarian shall ascertain on the first of every month, by an examination of the account of each subscriber, the books not then returned to the library in due season, and shall notify all delinquent subscribers of such neglect.  And if such books shall not be returned before the first of the following month, the librarian shall take measures to cause the same to be looked up and returned.

No person shall remove a book from its place in the library, without permission of the librarian.

The books marked in the catalogue with an asterisk, and such others as may from time to time be especially designated by the directors, shall not be taken from the library, except by their special permission.

A record shall be kept of all donations, and on all books presented to the library, the name of the donor shall be inscribed.

Any person admitted to the library may propose the purchase of any publication by inserting its title in a book kept for that purpose.

No subscriber shall be permitted to transfer his or her right to any other person, nor be allowed to carry any book out of the City under penalty of one dollar.

Whenever any subscriber shall change his place of residence in the City, he shall report such change to the librarian.

These by-laws may be enlarged, altered or repealed at any meeting of the directors, provided, however, that no change shall be made therein, unless no­ tice thereof shall have been given at a previous meeting of the directors, and unless at least five of the directors shall be present at the meeting when such change shall be enacted. ‘


Don’t forget the Pollard Memorial Library Foundation’s upcoming Elinor Lipman Award for Writing which will award a $1,000 cash prize to the best work of fiction or creative nonfiction written by a Lowell-based author. The deadline for submissions is May 20, 2022. For more information, visit the library’s website.