Founded over a century ago the Bedford Free Library had its beginnings when a small group of Bedford residents, under the leadership of Miss Eloise P. Luquer, rented a room in the 1807 Bedford Academy building and furnished it with a rug, chairs and bookcases. The Library’s small collection was assembled from the St. Matthews Parish Library, a small lending library housed in the Bedford Post Office and from books loaned by the State Circulating Library. The Bedford Free Library’s official opening was marked by a tea held in the new Library quarters on March 19, 1903.
In 1907, a generous gift of 350 books necessitated additional space, and so the trustees rented the large schoolroom of the Academy, which was converted into a comfortable reading room. During this period, the other ground-floor rooms were partitioned off and rented to roomers. A year later, the collection had grown to over two thousand volumes, and by 1912, a decision was made to install a single electric light, replacing some of the oil lamps. While balancing the budget was an annual challenge, generous contributions to the Library’s endowment fund, often by anonymous benefactors, helped offset rising costs.
The modern conveniences that characterize today’s Bedford Free Library were slow to arrive on the scene. Heated first by a wood-burning fireplace and then by a smoky oil stove, which damaged both ceiling and woodwork, a coal stove was installed in 1904. This was finally replaced by central heating in 1950. In 1956, the Library signed a 25-year lease on the Academy Building and made extensive repairs necessary to its preservation. The book room was enlarged, and the lighting was improved. In the late fifties, the Library acquired a telephone, and a few years later, indoor plumbing was finally installed.
In 1981, a generous gift from the Fanton Foundation served as the basis for a $50,000 capital fund drive that enabled the Library to build the back extension that housed the reference room and the Director’s office. Lack of space and needed structural repairs led to another capital fund drive in 1987. Sparked by two generous challenge grants, over $400,000 was raised from contributions by the town of Bedford, the Bedford Historical Society and village residents. These funds were used for extensive structural repairs including: the righting of a toppling cupola, total renovation of the downstairs rooms, and conversion of the upper floor from living quarters into library space.
In 1997, following a lengthy investigation by the Library’s Long-Range Planning Committee, the Trustees embarked on a major expansion and internal renovation of the Bedford Free Library. The new addition, with its newly handicapped-accessible main floor, vastly enlarged children’s area, a new reading room, updated technology, expanded stacks, study carrels and reading areas, was completed in the spring of 2001.
Several years ago through the generous donation of a patron the Library was able to update the back porch and add two large canopies. This added more options for space weather permitting. Each canopy has a large table and benches under it making it ideal for children’s programs in the warmer months and for patrons to meet and enjoy a cup of coffee or have a meeting.