The Union Library Society was the earliest recorded library in the town of Dalton. An old leatherbound book begun by William Williams in December of 1796 outlines the rules for this private library. Shareholders paid $5.00 to participate and there were severe penalties for “every spot of ink or grease inflicted” or for “turning down part of a leaf.” The society disbanded in 1828.
A blank exists in library records from 1829 to 1860. A new library association was formed at the end of 1859 by Reverend Edson L. Clark, pastor of the Congregational Church. This time the membership fee of 50 cents opened the library to wider usage. Pastor Clark became the first librarian and kept books at the parsonage and later moved them to the selectmen’s room at the Town Hall. They were soon moved again to the district school next to the Union Block.
Clark left town in 1867 and the library was absorbed by the town in 1885, when the Dalton Free Public Library was created. A total of 1,141 books were available to the public at that time and the town pledged to support the library that year with $250 raised from the dog fund. The librarian’s salary was $44 a year.
The library moved into the new Town Hall building in 1893 where it remains today. Extensive renovations and expansions took place in 1915, 1936 and 1976 when the library expanded into a section of the former opera house. The library is again outgrowing its current space and the trustees are studying possible options.
The Dalton Free Public Library now has approximately 40,000 volumes and subscribes to 90 periodicals. Besides regular hardcover books, its collection includes large print material, paperbacks, books on tape, and regular and descriptive videos (many of which are closed-captioned for the hearing impaired). The library offers access to the Internet for patrons, inter-library loan, programs for children and adults, book delivery to the home-bound and other services.
(Information from A Bicentennial History of Dalton Massachusetts, 1784-1984)