The Island Free library was established on March 6, 1875 under the name “The Island Library Association.” The members were “interested in obtaining better advantages for intellectual improvement than were then enjoyed on Block Island” (Livermore, 1873). Members paid an annual fee: $1 for men, and 50 cents for woman. By the spring of the next year, 1876, the library had been established with Arthur W. Brown as librarian. By now the library had 250 volumes that fit in one bookcase at the town hall, which was located at the bottom of Center Road.
In early 1877, after a year’s operation, the number of books had reached 500, most of them donated. On Halloween night in 1923 the library was completely destroyed when the town hall burned. After starting over again, the library was located for many years in the back of Star Department store. In 1958, the library moved to Chapel Street with Bea Dodge as Librarian, into the smallest of the three shops facing the street (now part of the Hagopian marketplace).
In 1975, one hundred years after its, beginning the IFL finally moved into a brand new building on Dodge Street with Sandra Madison Gaffett at its helm. That move was the result of the generosity of Lester Dodge. When Lester Dodge died in June 1971, his will left the bulk of his estate, nearly $400,000, to the town to build and maintain a new library on his family homestead on Dodge Street.
The library has twice needed to expand: with a small rear extension in 1992, and with the massive finished renovation that has doubled the interior space completed in 2002.
Today the Island Free Library has a collection of over 20,000 items.
Lending items include books, ebooks, ereaders, magazines, large print books, CDs, DVDs, audio books, games, puzzles, walkman, mini campcorder, slide projector, digital cameras, CD-MP3 players, DVD players, tape recorder, overhead projector and digital projectors.
Library services include children story hours, interlibrary loan, reference, newspapers, color & b/w photocopying, scanner, computers, interenet access, WiFi, notary and meeting rooms.
We have a staff of four full-time employees and a full-time director. The Island Free Library is one department within the Town of New Shoreham and is governed by the Island Free Library Board of Trustees.
The Island Free Library is a member of the Rhode Island library coalition, Ocean State Libraries.