The History of the Rockville Public Library
The history of the Rockville Public Library began in 1893 with the bequest of $10,000 from George Maxwell to the town for a free public library. Previously, private subscription library services, which charged a fee, existed in the area. The bequest was given with the provision that the town raise an equal amount in five years.
In 1893 the Rockville Public Library was incorporated and the Rockville Public Library Association was organized. The town appropriated the matching $10,000 in 1895, and the following year the library opened in the Hartford Connecticut Trust Company building on Elm Street.
The present building, constructed in 1904, was designed by Charles A. Platt of New York. It was a gift from Mr. Maxwell’s wife and children after his death. In addition to the building, the gift included funding to maintain and operate the facility. The majority of the library’s current operating budget continues to come from this source. The total cost for the lot, building, and furnishings was approximately $150,000. The library was dedicated and opened on June 29, 1904.
Three kinds of marble were used in the construction. The exterior of the building is white Vermont marble, featuring eight Ionic columns. The interior is Sienna marble and stained oak. The vestibule is lined with Formosa marble.
The frieze, or ornamental band, encircling the reading room contains the names of 26 great authors: Addison, Aeschylus, Browning, Bunyan, Burns, Byron, Chaucer, Dante, Dickens, Eliot, Emerson, Goethe, Hawthorne, Homer, Hugo, Jonson, Longfellow, Milton, Poe, Scott, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Stevenson, Tennyson, Thackeray, and Virgil.
The Latin inscription over the circulation desk, Ex hoc fonte illa quae summa haurimus, translates, “We draw the greatest things from this source..”
In 1967 the building was renovated and the children’s wing was added.
The adult department was renovated in 2002 to maximize available space and to allow for greater use of technological resources. Renovations included the relocation of the circulation desk to the other side of the marble archway to highlight the original desk. The Reading Room now features a browsing area for magazines, CDs and videos as well as new books and other materials. New carpeting has been installed, comfortable chairs have been added, and an upgraded security system has been activated. Computers have been centralized in the Reference Room so that all resources used for research are in one area.
These renovations enable the library to provide 21st-century service in its magnificent historic building. In 2004 Rockville Public Library was honored with an award for general excellence in public library service, presented at the annual Connecticut Library Association conference. In selecting RPL for the award, the judges noted that the library “was able to honor the historic aspects of the building and the community while incorporating technological advances.”