History of the Norman Williams Public Library

This beautiful pink sandstone building which graces Woodstock’s famous Green was built in 1883-1884 culminating a century of the Shire Town’s devotion to learning and literature. Woodstock has always been an unusually literate community: in the early 19th century private academies, a medical college, and reading circles flourished. Five weekly newspapers were published. The new library gave tangible, enduring form to this tradition.

A gift of Dr. Edward H. Williams, the library was constructed on the site of the home of his parents, Norman and Mary Williams at the cost of $30,000. The new library was an immediate and somewhat overwhelming success, and Dr. Williams soon (1901) gave $20,000 for a double-wing transept addition. In the 1980’s over $150,000 was raised and spent on a new roof and other important building repairs. The library became incorporated, and to this day is still a non-profit corporation relying on the generosity of people like Dr. Williams.


In 1999-2000, the NWPL underwent a $5 million renovation, restoration, expansion, and automation project. The building was in poor structural shape and approximately 2/3 of the money raised was used to address this problem. After restoring the facility the basement area was totally remodeled and changed into a well lit, comfortable, child and teen area. A mezzanine level was then constructed to house the reference collection and Internet computers; Administrative offices and the Vermont History Room were built in the former attic space. The original child’s area became the Reading Room, a place to relax and read newspapers, magazines, or a good book. This incredible project tripled the usable space from 5,000 to 15,000 square feet. When the new facility reopened to the public in September 2000 the card catalog and circulation system were automated.


The Green 13

Due in large part to a grant from the Vermont Library Foundation (funded by the Freeman Foundation) in 2001, the NWPL began providing free Internet access on the mezzanine level and in 2008 began offering wireless Internet access within the building. In 2010 it began offering free wireless Internet in the village area of Woodstock via ‘Wireless Woodstock’, a partnered venture with the community.

Today, the library is a modern facility that respects its cultural, historical, and architectural histories while providing the best of contemporary library services to the greater Woodstock area. The town of Woodstock supports the NWPL through a tax levy, about 40% of the operating budget. The NWPL is open to the public six days a week. Over the next few years its collection of books and media is expected to reach almost 70,000 offerings. For over one hundred years the NWPL has purchased books and other materials and lent them (or otherwise made them available) to area residents. Circulation has grown to over 60,000 items loaned, one of the highest figures per capita of all Vermont libraries. The NWPL Board of Trustees is committed to continuing the long history of progress in order to meet the informational, cultural enrichment, and life-long learning needs of the members of its community.
Learn more: Olivia Briggs Jaquith, Our first librarian