The Watervliet Public Library was founded in May 1953 under the auspices of the Watervliet Civic Chest, Inc. From the beginning, the library has had tremendous support from the community. The original Library holdings consisted solely of donations from the public and the original work force consisted solely of volunteers. Financial support came primarily from the Chest, although important donations also came from the Watervliet Rotary Club, the Watervliet Lodge of Elks, and the Knights of Columbus.
Our first librarian was even a volunteer. Sybell Maclay, who was the librarian at the Watervliet High School, began cataloguing book donations in September 1952. Her services were invaluable, as the Library had no funds to compensate a professional librarian. Esther Madsen carried on as volunteer librarian until 1967. Since 1967 the Board of Trustees has engaged the services of various professional librarians. Catherine Townsend became librarian and director in 1972 and retired in 1992. Barbara Schoen served since 1994 and Ginger Hewitt became librarian and director in 2006.
In 1965, toward the end of Mrs. Madsen’s tenure, our Library received a provisional charter from the New York State Board of Regents, thus officially becoming the Watervliet Public Library. The permanent charter and Certificate of Registration were granted nine years later, in 1974. In February 1980, the Library moved into its present location in the Senior Citizen Complex. At this time, the Library also became a member of the Upper Hudson Library System (UHLS). UHLS is a federation of public libraries in Albany and Rensselaer Counties. Through UHLS, the Library has the opportunity to cooperate with all other libraries in Albany and Rensselaer counties, by lending and borrowing books through inter-library loan. Watervliet has been fully active in UHLS since August 1997. Primary funding for the Library comes from the City of Watervliet.