The Bedford Free Public Library was founded in 1876 by a group of townspeople. While its goal was to serve the entire community, it was supported by private funds and governed by a private corporation. The early members of the Library Corporation saw the library not only as a provider of books, but as an “educator” in a broader sense.
By 1952, the Library was functioning as a part of the Town governmental structure. The legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognized the fact by enacting legislation creating a Board of Trustees with six members elected by the Town, and the clergy of the Town’s three churches serving ex officio. Provisions were made for the election by the Board of three of their members to serve on the Bedford Free Public Library Corporation which had responsibility for the trust funds bequeathed to the Corporation and the historical artifacts belonging to the town. The Town Treasurer was to serve as the Treasurer of the Corporation. This legislation was amended in 1973 to abolish the ex officio membership of the clergy and make all Trustees elected by the Town. In 1974, the Charter voted by the Town reduced the membership of the Board of Trustees to seven.
For many years the Library was housed in a variety of quarters: the Ladies Union, Mr. Aaron March’s store, the Center Grammar School, and the Town Hall. As early as 1888, Mr. George Piper, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, expressed the hope that a suitable library building be built in the near future, but it was not until 1952 that the library moved into its own quarters on the corner of Great Road and Mudge Way in the building known as the Stearns building, which currently houses the Police Station. As the Town grew, and use of the Library rose dramatically between 1955 and 1965, it became evident that a new library building was needed. In 1968, with the aid of a federal grant, the Library moved into a 14,700 square-foot building at its current location at 7 Mudge Way. A major addition to the Library was completed in 1999, expanding the interior space to 35,600 square feet.
The increased space has allowed the Library to offer more resources, services, and programs to the community, such as more space to expand print, audio, and DVD collections; a separate Children’s Room with storytime space; a young adult area; more meeting and study rooms; more space to work and read, a controlled room to house the historic Bedford Flag, and more display areas. Uses of interior space are dynamic to meet changing needs; currently the Library is expanding its Teen area to better serve the young adults in our community.
(Some of this information is from an written by Eleanor Arthur, a former Library Director, that appears in The Bedford Sampler).