THE COCHITUATE BRANCH LIBRARY
by Former Library Director Louise R. Brown
April 29, 2015
At the annual Town Meeting of March 1871, Charles R. Damon, a leading figure in Cochituate, James Sumner Draper and Edward Mellen, prominent Wayland citizens, were chosen as a committee to make Wayland library books available “so that citizens of the southern part of the town can avail themselves of the benefits of the Library by receiving and exchanging books at some suitable place in Cochituate Village.” However, Draper made it clear that he did not want Cochituate to supersede Wayland Central Village as the principal place in the town. He put conditions on gifts he made to the library to ensure that the Wayland Public Library would never move to Cochituate. In 1903, his son Wallace Draper. made the same stipulation on a gift.
In the year 1874, Cochituate opened its own Reading Room. The center library supplied books for Cochituate readers to borrow. The Reading Room was located in rented quarters in a business block on Main Street.
Public Document No.44, the 9th Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, 1899 states: “The town is comprised of two villages of nearly equal population three miles apart. The Wayland Public Library is in Wayland Centre.” The report continues to comment on the Cochituate population’s limited use of the center library and the different financial interests of each village. “For obvious reasons, the people of Cochituate, up to 1874, patronized the library (center) very scantily, and in fact, sometimes stood in the way of liberal appropriations for its support. In 1874, at his own expense, the librarian inaugurated a system of exchanges for that village and of transmitting the books, which has proved highly useful and satisfactory. Since then, a resident has been annually appointed by the Trustees and books are regularly transmitted by express at the Town’s expense. This action added more than 4,000 volumes to the circulation in a section of town where, heretofore, less than an average of 25 books had found their way.”
An 1877 Annual Town Report tells us: “The plan adopted three years ago for the transmission and circulation of books in Cochituate has proved to be wise and generally satisfactory. The Commissioners, however, regret that for a few weeks, at different times, the books for some cause have failed to be transmitted at the proper time between Cochituate and the Centre”. In 1879, we are told that the Cochituate Reading Room was under the direction of the YMCA.
The 1881-82 Annual Town Report informs us that C.A. Parker was paid $67.00 for transporting books between Cochituate and Wayland Centre. However, in 1881, the members of the Cochituate Library Association voted to dissolve their organization and present their books to the Wayland Library. 141 volumes were transferred.
The 1907 Report of the Public Library Trustees states: “The Trustees appointed a committee to ascertain the wishes of the citizens of Cochituate in regard to the proposed Reading Room and to formulate plans for its establishment and maintenance.” The Cochituate Reading Room opened on July 10, 1907 after Town Meeting voted to have a branch library in Cochituate. Town Meeting appropriated $1,000 for books, periodicals and staff.
In 1953 the branch library moved to a section of the Cochituate Fire Station where it served the public until its closing in 1989. The space was expanded in 1970.
Closing of the Branch Library
The Wayland Annual Town Report of July 1, 1989-June 30, 1990 states the following: “Because of budget constraints the Trustees closed the Cochituate Branch Library in July 1989.” The main library opened its renovated building and addition in January, 1988. Circulation at the branch was decreasing. Staffing the branch with one individual working alone, especially during the evening hours, was becoming a serious challenge and security issue.
Well before the closing, the Trustees held public hearings to explain their actions and invite residents to voice their concerns and ask questions. Attendance at the hearings was sparse, although many Cochituate citizens expressed strong feelings of disappointment once the doors were locked. To address the issue, the Trustees developed a plan for a drop off book return where borrowers could return books at the former branch location. The library custodian made the twice-weekly trips in his own vehicle for several years until he retired and they were discontinued. At the time, many Cochituate residents were unhappy about the end of this service. In the eighties and nineties, many cities and towns in Massachusetts were shuttering their branches, believing that one main library could better serve the community library needs in the information age.
There may still be residents that mourn the loss of the Cochituate reading room. However, most of us have come to accept the idea of a strong central library, which can offer a wide variety of print and non-print materials, online access to databases, public computers, friendly and knowledgeable staff, stimulating programs for adults and children, and so much more that make it a major magnet of vibrant community activity in Wayland.
1874 Cochituate Reading Room opens
1881 Cochituate Library Assoc. dissolves and sends books to center library.
1907 Trustees plan and open a new Cochituate Reading Room.
1953 Branch library opens at the Cochituate Fire Station, expanded in 1970
1989 Branch library is closed.
Emery, Helen Fitch. The Puritan Village Evolves. Wayland Historical Society, 1981.
Hudson, Alfred Sereno. The Annals of Sudbury, Wayland and Maynard, 1891.
Town of Wayland Annual Reports, 1877, 1881-82, 1907, 1989-90
Unpublished reports on file at the Wayland Public Library