With hearts filled with hope, the Friends of the Library met on April 8, 1908, at the Fireman's Opera House on Stage Road. Their purpose: to establish a free circulating library. Conrad Regeluth, owner of a drug store/ice cream parlor, suggested a room in Johnny Miller's grocery store, which was also on Stage Road. This building is now the Village Hall.
Mr. Regaluth's offer included lights and furniture. He further agreed to be the librarian, all for $2 weekly. History has not recorded whether Mr. Regeluth was simultaneously jerking sodas, compounding prescriptions and checking out books, but we do know he kept the library open ten hours a day except for Sunday.
The Monroe Free Library's founding members were Millard F. Mapes, president of the board of trustees formed on May 8, 1908; Mr. and Mrs. Willard H. Bull, Mrs. Bull serving as vice president; Orville Eichenberg, chairman; Gilbert Carpenter, secretary; Albert J. Crane, treasurer, who also donated Crane Park to the village; W.J. Cregan; Clarence Knight; Miss Bertha Taylor; Miss Irene Carpenter; Miss Mary Cocks; Mrs. Ira Smith; Mrs. S. Fairchild, and Mrs. Ford Relyea.
This intrepid group, in addition to their own donations, raised a total of $246 from 180 village residents. After receiving a charter from the state Department of Education, the library opened in June 1908. By 1909, the library had 870 books and had taken in over $408 for the year. By 1918, Mrs. Joe T. "Libby" Howell was librarian, earning the munificent sum of $30 per year.
After several previous moves, the library moved in July 1924 to the Community House on North Main Street. Owned by the Konnight family during the Civil War, this building had been known as the Konnight Building and the Opera House. It had once been a livery stable, had a gazebo out front for band concerts, and a bowling alley inside to delight local youth.
The library bravely continued through the dark days of the Great Depression. In 1939, Monroe Free Library had 4880 books. In addition to state funds and money from the Village of Monroe, the library was supported by donations raised by residents at card parties. Open only two hours a day for five days a week, the librarian was Miss Edith E. Kerr. The board of trustees members were H.S. Burroughs, president; Mrs. C.A. Brooks, vice president; H.E. Coleman, treasurer; Mrs. Ira J. Smith, secretary; Mrs. Frederick Hulse; Mrs. Hubert L. Smith; Mrs. L.R. Carpenter; Mrs. C.N. Anderson; and Mrs. F.A. Newbury.
Because the Community House building was sold in 1958, the board of trustees began the drive for a new library building. After a search for an appropriate property, the Mentz lot on Millpond Parkway was agreed to be the best choice. On November 22, 1960, the new library let public come in for the first time to browse among its 10,000 volumes, magazines and films. The new building was soon home to book discussions, music appreciation classes, the Stamp Club, the Chess Club, the Bridge Club and bridge lessons, and more programs.
David H. Bush, president of the board of trustees at this time, was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Ramapo-Catskill Library System. Because of this cooperation among libraries in Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Rockland Counties, Monroe Free Library patrons have access to books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines from the wide RCLS geographic area.
As Monroe continued to grow, it became obvious to the community by the 1980s that expansion was needed. In 1983, the library started planning a new addition to enhance the back of the building, bringing it to its current state.
The Village of Monroe: Celebration of a Century, 1994, Royal Fireworks Press, Unionville, New York/Toronto, Ontario. Editors: Cornelia Bush, Paul Ellis-Graham, James R. Nelson
Monroe in the Heart of Orange County's Lake Region, 48 Miles from New York City circa 1960, Monroe Chamber of Commerce, Monroe, New York. Author: J. Lloyd Handy
Know Monroe: 1939, 1939, Monroe Chamber of Commerce, Monroe, New York. Editor: Paul A. Johnston with Alice V. Tannery and Emma B. Hulse