The Dedham Library began in 1794 when the First Parish Church organized the Social Library. The minister kept the books in his house, issuing them for circulation only on Mondays.
On November 24, 1854, Dedham residents founded the Dedham Library Association. The new library, which opened February 1, 1855, was housed at 630 High Street, with Dr. Samuel Adams as the librarian.
An act of legislature chartered the present Dedham Public Library on March 24, 1871.
Throughout 1871, a campaign took place to raise funds for the new library. Charles Bullard bequeathed $3,000 to the Library and an additional $4,200 was raised by townspeople; the Town appropriated $800 to fund the Library. The Library Association endowed their books to the new public library.
The first Dedham Public Library opened on February 20, 1872 and was located in a rented room over Thomas J. Baker’s store on the corner of Court and Norfolk Streets. Francis M. Mann, a long-time member of the Library Association, was appointed as the librarian.
A bequest of $10,000 from John R. Bullard in 1882 and $10,000 from Hanna Shuttleworth in 1886 allowed the Library Trustees to purchase property and erect a new Library on the corner of Church and Norfolk Streets, the site of the current Main Library. Boston architects Van Brunt and Howe designed the Main Library with a Romanesque/Southern France style; the exterior is Dedham pink granite and red sandstone trim.
Throughout the years, small branch libraries were located in different areas of Dedham including West Dedham (now Westwood), East Dedham, Oakdale, Riverdale, and the Capen.
In 1952, the Main Library underwent a major transformation which resulted in the children’s wing and basement program space being added, reconfiguring the main entrance, and renovations in the adult area. This is the current state of the Main Library.
In 1973, the Library acquired the carriage house from the Endicott Estate and converted it to the Endicott Branch Library.
The Dedham Public Library joined the Minuteman Library Network in 1993, which allowed Dedham residents to have access to resources and services from other Massachusetts libraries. In 2003 the Minuteman Library Network transitioned to a new online system giving patrons easier access to the online catalog.
Continuing to transition, as new technology became available through the Minuteman Network, the Library began offering patrons access to digital audiobooks and ebooks through Overdrive in 2009. The Library’s digital collection and usage has continued to grow since that time and now includes resources from Libby, Hoopla and Kanopy.
The Library has worked to serve the community, addressing their needs and interests as best it can. Since 2016 the Library has hired specialized staff to help meet those needs including a Technology Librarian, a Youth and Teen Services Librarian, a Reading Advocate, Programming and Outreach Manager, and programming staff.
Highlights from the last ten years include:
- Expanded storytime and book group offerings
- 5k run/walks (2016, 2017, 2018, 2023)
- The addition of an observation beehive at the Main Library (2017)
- 3d printing availability (2017)
- The addition of circulating technology including laptops and hotspots
- Free summer lunch program (2018, 2019)
- Installation of a story walk at the Endicott Branch Library (2022)