The Theresa Free Library in 1910. From a postcard donated to the library’s historical collection.

Mr. Edson Getman was the first Theresa resident to try to develop an interest in a library for our town.  Then, in 1900, Mr. George Putnam made a gift of books to start a town library.  Mr. Putnam was a New York City merchant and former Theresa resident.  The library opened in the basement of the town hall.  These quarters were small; the shelf and reading room were limited.  Mrs. Celia Whitney was the first librarian.  The charter members were Mary Tyler, Reverend Charles Cady, Edson Getman, Sarah Hannahs and Ernest Cook.  They decided to seek money for a new library with more room.

Rev. Cady began a correspondence with Andrew Carnegie in 1902 seeking funds for a new building.  Mr. Carnegie replied that he could not consider the proposition, since it was not his custom to donate libraries to small towns in as much as a similar amount spent in larger communities would reach a greater percentage of people.  Rev. Cady was persistent, however, and more correspondence followed.  In 1910, Mr. Carnegie offered to donate $7500 for the purpose of erecting a Free Public Library building if the town would provide a site and the upkeep of the library.

In the meantime, Mr. John Fayel had died, leaving over $1000 to be used for library purposes and for purchasing a site for a new library.  Public meetings were held in the Theresa Town Hall by the Board of Trade (what we would now call a Chamber of Commerce) for the purpose of a public discussion of the Carnegie proposition.  The Board of Trade also obtained options on several favorable sites, so voters could be presented with an idea of where the library could be located, and the cost of the site.

Balloting was held February 24, 1910.  The vote was 208 for and 58 against accepting the Carnegie gift.