Rochester Public Library: Beginning was anything but smooth
Buffalo had one. And Syracuse had just gotten $200,000 from the Carnegie Foundation to build a new one.
So it was not easy for Rochesterians to accept the fact that their fair city, famed near and far for the quality of its industrial products, was entering the 20th century without a municipal library to its name.
Especially when the Chamber of Commerce in 1903 surveyed the seven leading institutional libraries in the city (such as the one at the University of Rochester), and found that their total collection of books numbered only 180,000 — barely one book per resident, writes former city historian Blake McKelvey.
"Rochester is disgraced," former alderman Devillo Selye declared in 1904. Mayor James G. Cutler agreed.
So what did the city do about it?