Our History

The groundwork for the Library as it is today began in 1799 with the creation of the York Social Library. 


The History of York Public Library

The Library has passed through many stages in its metamorphosis from the “York Social Library” of 1799 to the present York Public Library at 15 Long Sands Road.

Prior to 1799, the citizens of York and Kittery were allowed to borrow books from Sir William Pepperrell’s library which contained the finest books being printed in England at the time.  The “York Social Library” sold stock as certificates of membership and was active for ten years.  There is no further mention of a Library in history books until the 1870’s when Miss Sarah Varrell ran a circulating library out of her York Harbor home.  Summer visitors contributed the books and “The Harbor Library” was created. 

In 1884 Miss Jane Sewall, daughter of Reverend David Sewall, organized “The Young People’s Literary Club” and for several years instructed members in the appreciation of literature.  The influence of this club seems to have carried over to another club, the “York Neighborhood Club,” established around 1900.  One of the two clubrooms in the Realty Building was a library, and when the club dissolved [sic] in 1910, it was the suggestion of Mrs. Myron Cox that the Georgeana Grange sponsor a library.  The Grange occupied rooms upstairs in what is now the Ellis Agency, and there, the “York Public Library” served the town from 1910 to 1914. 

When the Grange surrendered its charter in 1914, the book collection was moved to the ground floor of the Austin Block.  Also in 1914, the first York Library Association was formed, and its paying membership contributed to the growth and success of the library, which remained in the Austin Block until 1922, when it moved again – this time to the vestry of the First Parish Church.

At the same time, the York Public Library Association began a membership drive and petitioned the town for an appropriation of $500.  The Association decided on a site for a new building, the Allen lot on the main street, an ideal lot on parish land which could be leased indefinitely.  In 1922, the association became incorporated and elected a building committee.  Mr. and Mrs. Edward C. Moody donated the field stone; Everett E. Goodwin drew up the plans; and on July 25, 1922, ground was broken for the new library building.  In 1926, after four years of construction, the book collection was moved from the vestry of the First Parish Church into the attractive stone building that was the home of the York Public Library until 2001. 

In 1971, the need for a larger space was first considered. After two capital campaigns in the late nineties, the York Public Library Association raised funds for our current home on 15 Long Sands Road, which opened in December of 2001. 

The Library offers a wealth of educational, recreational and cultural programs and resources geared to entice, inspire, and enrich citizens of all ages and abilities. Programs have included a popular film series for both adults and families; a full array of children’s programming from story times to summertime reading programs; author visits; music performances; art exhibits; and speakers on a wealth of topics. 

The Library also provides free or discounted admission passes to local and Boston area museums; public WiFi and computer workstations; computer software and access to research and subscription databases on topics from genealogy to language-learning; a collection of tens of thousands of books, DVDs, e-books and downloadable audiobooks; and newspapers and magazines for all ages and interests.  If you can’t find what you need in our collection, the York Library is a member of the Minerva consortium of 60+ Maine libraries; our membership gives York cardholders access to well over 1,000,000 titles with the click of a mouse. 

The Library facility and its beautiful grounds are free and open for all to enjoy.