The Shoreham Free Public Library began in 1823 and was located in a small room in the “Community” or “Meeting” House on the north end of the commons. It had between 600 and 800 books on its shelves, donated by the churches, organizations, and public-spirited members of the community.
The Platt Memorial Library, built on the Commons, opened its doors in 1906. The building was the gift of Dr. Mary Mixer Platt as a memorial to her husband, Dr William Platt, who had long been a physician in Shoreham. “Dr. Mary” had traveled the state by horse and buggy, looking for the type of building she envisioned, and when her search was rewarded she promptly hired a contractor and carpenters from Ticonderoga, New York , to do the job of building to her specifications. The crew stayed at the Bissell House in the village while doing the construction. Work began on the library in May and was finished in September.
Although the library from its inception had a five-member board, their names were not listed in the Annual Town Report until 1916. At that point Dr. Mary Platt, D. F. Macauley, Nellie Preble, W. T. Delano, and Florence Witherell were serving on the Board. Mrs. Witherell served as Trustee and Librarian from 1906 to 1932. Her salary, paid by the town, was $25 per year. Monies for support of the library were raised by suppers, dancing parties, box luncheons, card parties and private subscriptions. Also people made monetary bequests to the library in their wills. Town support of the library ranged from $25 in 1906 to $1,200 per year by 1982. Presently the town also pays for fuel oil, electric bills and insurance.
In its early days the library was heated by a wood-burning furnace and illuminated by kerosene lamps. In 1927, according to library records, a cord of wood cost $11 and a gallon of kerosene $.29. In 1932 the 4-H children and their advisors wired the library for electricity. The cost for power for that entire year was $13.
By the 1920s there were four branch libraries located in people’s homes, and many ladies took baskets of books for distribution to neighbors who found it difficult to visit the library. The teachers in the nine remaining one-room schoolhouses borrowed books for use by their students. At that time the State Department of Education supplied books to town libraries.
Since the death of Dr. Mary Platt the members of the Platt family have continued their interest in the library. A well was drilled in 1963 and the water from it shared with the Town Clerk’s Office. The basement was reconstructed to contain a meeting room, kitchen and a furnace room with an oil furnace. Toilet fixtures were put in upstairs and the upstairs library rooms repainted.
In 1975 as a memorial to Henry Russell Platt, Dr. William Platt’s nephew, members of his family and his friends gave funds for redecorating the library with bold wallpaper and wall-to-wall carpeting. Dr. Platt’s nephews and nieces recall as children being allowed to “mind the library” when they came to Shoreham for summer visits.
During the Bicentennial year the library had the original 1861 History of the Town of Shoreham, Vermont reprinted. All 500 copies were sold, and the monies thus realized plus funds from other fund-raising projects were used to update the library. A projector and screen were purchased, and also a display case and current set of encyclopedias. A telephone was installed.
In 2011, ground was broken for a new addition as part of a 10-year fundraising effort to modernize the library. The new addition is tied into the old building, preserving the back exterior wall inside. Currently, the Platt Memorial Library boasts around 2,000 square feet of public space, including a beautiful children's room and flexible shelving on wheels in the main collection room.
Platt Memorial Library’s vital signs are good. The library director, youth librarian, or other staff member serves at the circulation desk. The Library Director is a professional librarian, we have a Youth Services Librarian and the library assistants have specialized training from the Vermont Department of Libraries, workshops, and conferences. Our passionate volunteers fill in the gaps; ably assisting at the circulation desk or managing our Basement Book Sale. The Trustees take an active part in running the library, attending to the business side, while the library director and youth services librarian plan special exhibits, conduct community readings and film programs, offer hands-on activities for children and adults, choose books for purchase, and tend to day-to-day business of running the library.
On occasion the Trustees pitch in to help make things run smoothly, and they even helped bail out the basement during spring run-off, before the Commons was regraded. There is now a formal “Friends of the Library” as well as a number of loyal friends and volunteers who give generously of their time and money to library work. As a result, Shoreham has a library of which the community can be proud.