The Moses Greely Parker Memorial Library was founded to provide, organize, and preserve books, materials and information to increase the recreational and educational levels of the Dracut community. Since the renovation and addition to the library in 2006, the Library has also striven to become a community center, providing a location for residents to come to sit, connect with technology, attend programs, and increase their awareness of the world around them.
In order to meet our mission, we:
- Provide courteous and friendly service to everyone that visits the library.
- Provide popular materials in a multitude of formats for all ages. 3
- Be a resource center for all those seeking information.
- Provide the community with educational, recreational, and cultural programming.
- Adhere to the rules and regulations presented by the American Library Association which allow each person the right to seek information without censure, regardless of age.
In 1800 seven community members petitioned Middlesex County for permission to begin a social library within the community of Dracut. Permission was granted and shortly, at a Dracut Proprietors meeting, a clerk and librarian were selected. By-laws were drawn up and accepted the following June. Very quickly, book collections were developed and housed in several different locations throughout the Town. Anyone that paid a fee of one dollar and fifty cents was allowed unlimited borrowing privileges. Few records remain from that period, but we do know that the borrowing period was for three months and that the overdue fine was one cent per day. All books had to be returned to the libraries before the annual Town Meeting or the borrower was charged twenty-five cents for the neglect. This form of library service continued for twenty years. Then, in the 1820s interest diminished and eventually, all holdings were sold at auction.
Lending library collections continued to exist in Dracut throughout the remainder of the century, but there was no centralized collection and no library as we know it today. These small collections of books housed near the different schools must have been purchased by individuals since the budget shows no line item for support of library materials.
It was not until 1900 that the community of Dracut joined with the rest of Middlesex County and set about establishing its own free public library. The annual Town Meeting saw a Library budget item of $200.00 out of a full budget of $5,000.00, and the establishment of a six member (each representing a different district) Board of Library Trustees.
The Library was housed on the second floor of Town Hall. It remained there until 1922 when Mrs. Mary Morrison donated a building and the furnishings in memory of her brother, Dr. Moses Greeley Parker. The $25,000.00 building was to remain the property of the Town as long as one percent of the total operating budget of the Town went to the Library. This stipulation was ignored over many years and when the question was brought to legal counsel it was deemed that, though we had the right to this money, precedent had been set over the years and the enforcement of this stipulation was no longer deemed possible.
In the beginning, this 4,500 square foot library shared space with the Historical Society. The upper floor with its barrel vault ceiling and Palladian windows contained all the materials of the library while the lower level belonged to the Historical Society and housed the records of the community. From these records, we found that there were informal branches of the library throughout the Town, some in stores, some in schools, but all materials were returned to the main library. The circulation figures remained very high due to the fact that every question, every visit and every phone call was listed as a circulating item. With this 8 form of calculation in 1928, they boasted a total circulation of 80,000. If we counted the same way today, our circulation would be in the millions.
When the “new” library opened in 1922, the community decided that it no longer needed a six member Board of Trustees and voted to lower the number to three. It was also decided to elect the members “at large,” for rotating three year terms. While we know this Board continued to set policies for the Library, records of the actual policies, rules, and lists of actual materials, have not been found.
As the years past, the Library, along with the Town, continued to grow and more space was needed. Nature lent a hand when the lower level sustained a flood that forced the Historical Society to move to a drier home. Immediately, the lower level, more of a basement with its single window and water problem, became the children’s room.
Outreach to the schools began under the direction of the town and school libraries in different parts of town. One of the original High School Librarians was also a Trustee of the Parker Library, and acted as a liaison between the two facilities. All discards and donated books were sent to the schools until money was found in the budget to fund those libraries. It wasn’t long before the school library budgets and salaries for the school libraries far surpassed the Public Library.
During the 1970s, plans for a new building were drawn up and arguments began. The community did not see the necessity for expansion and cut the size of the proposed building by almost half. What was to be a two story building with a pitched roof and much storage space was accepted in 1979 as a flat roofed building containing a community meeting room, adult collection, and work space. The connection to the old building was not well planned, resulting in the children’s room being split into two levels, forcing parents to choose between their young readers and older children needing help. The separation of age levels continued through occasional floods until, in 1992, “Hurricane Bob” put the finishing touches to any hope of continued use. The meeting room became the Children’s Room, with bright, sunny windows and a lot more space. The 1992 building was left for storage, mold, and occasional meetings.
The early 1990s were not kind to the Parker Library. Budgets were slashed and hours cut so drastically that it was only open 35 hours a week. Finally, due to a failed override, the total library budget was eliminated from the Town budget and on July 14, 1992, the M.G. Parker Memorial Library became the first Public Library to completely close down due to an override failure. It did not take long for people to realize what not having a Library meant. In less than six months, thanks to the efforts of the Friends of the Library, the Parker Library, fully funded by donated money, re-opened its doors. Since that day, the Library has been viewed through a different lens. The value of the Library became evident to the residents once it was closed.
Upon re-opening, a close look was taken at the condition of the building and the Library’s place in the community. Town officials were aware that the building needed drastic help, and the Board of Trustees took the first planning steps. The structure underwent a complete analysis, followed by the submission of a design grant to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. With the new design in hand, a construction grant application was filed. 9
In November of 2002, Dracut was awarded $2.5 million dollars from state construction money. All that was needed was an additional $5 million dollars. An energized group of Library supporters worked with supporters of the Dracut Police Department, and launched a campaign for joint debt exclusion. In December of 2002, the debt exclusion passed. In January 2003, construction began and the Library moved to temporary quarters.
The construction, originally scheduled to last fourteen months, extended until May 8, 2006. On that date, a record number of visitors entered the new 29,000 square foot Library.
Reflecting the continued growth of the community and the demands on the Library, the Town bylaws were changed to increase the number of Library Trustees from three to five. In May of 2007, the first five members Board of Library Trustees convened.