Lowell City Library

Lowell has one clear, historical fact that predates any other city, I have been told, and that is the Lowell City Library. The Pollard Memorial Library is part of that. It is a part, not the entire library. When the City Fathers decided to name the library, it was in 1841, four years before the Boston Public Library was formed.

Lowell was an up-and-coming city in 1841, and the city needed a library. At the time, there was no other place on earth that would form a ;public library like Lowell’s. There is a great deal of information on the library in the “Illustrated History of Lowell, Mass.” which was written sometime before 1893, but published after that year. This, then, is the history of the Lowell Public Library, which was named that long before any of us were borne. It was named the Lowell Public Library by the City Fathers in an ordinance which passed the City Council in or around 1843. That law was never rescinded by any City Council. The name of the library was set in the 1840’s. It was not named the Memorial Library for years. It was named the Pollard Memorial Library without a study of the actual naming of the Lowell City Library. The actual library, according to the City Fathers, was named the Lowell City Library while the upstairs library was named, after the City Fathers wanted a place to commemorate those who died in the Civil War. The Basement was for the storage of old newspapers and magazines. The first floor was the Memorial Library. The second floor was named the Memorial Hall by an act of the City Council, in the 1870’s. The City Library was on the first floor. The Memorial Hall was on the second floor. The third floor was for offices.

It is my opinion that something that is named after Veterans should not be renamed. That was not the case after Samuel Pollard died and Mayor Rourke made a motion to make the library after him.
The Mayor decided to rename the library after Samuel Pollard. He said that the building, which was named the Memorial Library, be renamed the Pollard Memorial Library. It could not have been named after Samuel Pollard without making the distinction that the upstairs was the Memorial Hall. Mayor Raymond Rourke’s motion renamed the entire edifice after Mr. Pollard. It already was named and nowhere in the motion was there a motion to rename the Memorial Hall after Mr. Pollard or anyone else. The hall was never designed to be renamed. It was also, by edict of the original City Council, only a small part of the building, specifically the first floor, which was the only part of the building designated as the Lowell City Library.

“Libraries have probably existed in some form in the world from the earliest times known to the history of man. It would appear to have been his purpose to record either upon tablets, scrolls, or the printed page a record of his thoughts and his deeds. Eventually, manuscripts became printed books, and the place where these books were stored became a treasury or library, where the records were stored became a treasury, or library, where the records of past thought and action were preserved.” (Illustrated History of Lowell, Mass.)

“Within small communities, social or proprietary libraries were started by interested citizens.” (ibid.) Libraries of this character have existed within the United States for more than a century.” (ibid.) “The midnight oil or the midnight candle was frequently burned in order to finish their contents before the time of returning.”

The idea of a library supported by taxation of a municipality for the benefit of all its inhabitants is American and recent.”

“There are books, which, from their cost, size, and variety, and value merely as books of reference, cannot be generally circulated, but can (only) be consulted within the walls of the building itself. It would be impossible for a public library to exist without such books Still such libraries are essentially free, and the name Free Public Library is appropriate for them. …use, benefit, and improvement of the people.” (ibid.)

“Its relation, therefore, to the intellectual life of any city cannot be overestimated…In short, it broadens everything…”Technically its name is “the City Library.” (It) has depended for its prosperity entirely upon municipal action. No citizen of large means has endowed it either with building or fund.”

“It is a creation pure and simple from the resources of the city.” Thus, it predated the same form of a library in Boston by four years. “The first librarian in Lowell was Josiah Hubbard. And, for a purpose of circulating information,..and the Mayor was asked to draw from the City Treasury a sum of $2,300 for the “purchase of books.” He continued his service for thirteen years. The early library had “various quarters.” It started out in a building owned by a Mr. Hosford in 1872. It was founded on May 22, 1844 by an act of the City Council. Prior to Mr. Hosford’s time, it was placed in the schools. It was named, originally, the “City School Library.” In 1860, by enactment, the name changed to the
“City Library of Lowell.” The City Council named it.

“It was finally determined by an Act of the City Council, to change its name to “Memorial Hall.” It had changed its name to the City Library of Lowell. which was the official legal name of the library. As stated, the library itself was on the first floor, the Memorial Hall above was for all of those who lost their lives in the “Great War.”

When you name the Memorial Hall or combination of that name and the Lowell City Library in the building named that, you dedicate the building to the dead of the war. There were over 500 names on the walls of the Memorial Hall, upstairs and down. The building had a name. It you pick up an old postcard, the name of the building on the postcard is “Memorial Hall.” You cannot, in my opinion, take an already named Memorial Hall after a man who did not even exist when the hall was first named. Mayor Rourke, in my opinion, overstepped. By 1897 there were 55,398 volumes in the Lowell City Library. That is a well-funded institution. The number of volumes in the Reference Room, now Memorial Hall, was 18,111 volumes.

When the Howe Bridge was built, the men who died from the Lowell Technical Institute who fought the battles of WWII, were listed on the replacement stone. That was a new bridge, but the City of Lowell decided to make their sacrifice, known only to a few people, myself included, was included on the stone. Mr. Howe never seemed to have a problem with remembering their sacrifice. The original bridge was a Memorial Bridge. The people who lost their lives were remembered.

I believe, as I said, that you do not rename a building meant to remember those who lost their lives in a war of freedom, after someone else. I believe, further, that you do not commemorate anyone by renaming a memorial to them. Mr. Pollard can have the library, I suppose, but he cannot have ownership of the entire building. His specialty is the City Library. Name the first two floors after him if necessary, but let’s not forget those 500 plus men who died in the Civil War. The architect, Mr. Stickney, said that “The new library building will extend eighty-nine feet on Merrimack Street and 121 on Colburn Street, the Main entrance being on Merrimack Street. The entrance hall will have marble flooring, with a stair-case eight feet wide, leading to Memorial Hall above.”

“The first floor will contain a delivering-room 27×27, a reference room on the left 27X43, with a smaller reference-room for periodicals 37×38, two fire-proof bookstack-rooms to take 150,000 volumes, and the Librarian’s room 18×37.” “The second floor will contain Memorial Hall and ante-rooms.”

“The basement will contain a reading room for newspapers 37×38, a repairing-room a store-room for bound volumes of newspapers, and an unpacking room.”

Now, Richard Howe, Jr., has written a great paper on the library. But the conclusion that the entire building was named for one man may have had its impetus because no one took the time to see who the building was built to memorialize. It was named for a great group who we would now refer to as “Heroes.” If we are going to name it after anyone, then Mr. Pollard is fine. But let’s follow the code of reason placed by those people who first specified what and who the building was named for; those people who lost their lives in the bloodiest war ever fought in America. They were very specific on the uses of the building and they were, after all, first.

37 thoughts on “Lowell City Library

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