History of the Main Library and Branches


The second floor to the Worcester Bank Block on Foster Street was the temporary home of the Worcester Public Library while the new library was being built on Elm Street. It housed a large part of Dr. Green’s collection, as well as the collections of the Worcester Lyceum and Library Association, which included the former Young Men’s Library Association collection. This location was closed in 1861 in preparation for the move to the new Elm Street library building.


The cornerstone for the new library was laid on July 4, 1860. When the first Worcester Public Library was opened on Elm Street in 1862 all of the collections were moved into the new building, which cost over $30,000 to build.

The library housed the Reference, or Green Collection, and the Circulating Collection from the Worcester Lyceum and Library Association, which were also from Dr. John Green’s personal library, as well as several other smaller collections including the Worcester District Medical Society, the Worcester Farmer’s Club Library and the Cabinet and Library of the Worcester Natural History Society.

According to the Annual Report of the Directors, January 1863, the Free Public Library contained over 10,000 volumes in the Green Library/Permanent Collection, and 6,077 books in the circulation collection.


By the late 1880’s the first library was too small, and on April 1, 1891 the city opened an addition to the first building which more than doubled its size and provided a separate space for a growing Children’s Department, an improved Circulation Department ,as well as an expanded Reading room for patrons using the Library’s magazine and newspaper collection, "The best and most prominent papers and periodicals in this country and Europe.”


Early in the 20th Century, there was a growing recognition that the library needed to expand into the City’s neighborhoods. This need was answered with the help of Andrew Carnegie and the donation of land by local businesses and industries. The three Carnegie branch libraries, Greendale, Quinsigamond and South Worcester, all opened in February of 1914. Andrew Carnegie attended all three openings.

South Worcester Branch Library:

  • Opened February,1914 at 105 Southbridge Street
  • Designed by Henry D. Whitefield
  • One of three libraries built with $75,000 donated by Andrew Carnegie
  • Land donated by Matthew J. Whitall and Alfred Thomas

Greendale Branch Library:

  • Opened February,1914 at 470 West Boylston Street
  • Designed by Lucius Briggs
  • One of three libraries built with $75,000 donated by Andrew Carnegie
  • Land donated by Allen Higgins Co., Osgood Bradley Co., Heald Machine Co., Morgan Machine Co., Norton Grinding Co., American Pressed Steel Corp., A.S. Walker Co., and Young Brothers

Quinsigamond Branch:

  • Opened February,1914 at 830 Millbury Street
  • Designed by Fuller and Delano
  • One of three libraries built with $75,000 donated by Andrew Carnegie
  • Land donated by American Steel and Wire
  • It is now part of the Quinsigamond Elementary School

Over the next half-century, four additional branches (Tatnuck Square, Main South, Billings Square, and Great Brook Valley) opened as the library continued to address the needs of the ever-expanding City of Worcester.

Tatnuck Branch: located in the lower level of the Tatnuck Square Elementary School on Pleasant Street, was opened in 1940.

Billings Square Branch: located on Hamilton Street at the intersection of Grafton and Hamilton Streets, was opened in 1928. It was turned into a realtor’s office.

Main South Branch: at various locations on Main Street, was first opened in 1945.

Great Brook Valley Branch: located in the Great Brook Valley Housing on Tacoma Street, was opened in 1981.

The Bookmobile was added in the 1940’s to further expand access to library services into every corner of the City

These branches focused on service to children, providing books and programs for school age children, along with serving the City’s large ethnic populations. Books were purchased in over 15 languages, representing the ethnic focus of the neighborhoods (French, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, Finnish, Lithuanian, Swedish, Hungarian, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Yiddish, Portuguese, and Greek).

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