On January 24, 1917, the Regents of the University of the State of New York granted a charter to a corporation to be known as the Cannon Free Library at Delhi. The object and purpose of the corporation was to maintain a circulating library and reading room free for the public use to the inhabitants of the Town of Delhi and vicinity. Plans for a library building then began.
The library was built as a gift to the community by Mr. Henry White Cannon in memory of his parents, George Bliss Cannon and Ann Eliza White Cannon, and he endowed the library with money to keep it functioning.
On April 9, 1918, the doors to the new library building were opened to the public. Over 4,000 volumes were stacked on the shelves, and the first librarian, Miss Pauline Farrington issued 159 library cards.
For the first 50 years, the Cannon Free Library was an independent library circulating its collection to the residents and the surrounding areas.
In 1967, the library became part of the Four County Library System (4CLS). This gave the library access to the 4CLS collection in the form of borrowing an extra collection of books available to its patrons. It also gave access to the collections of the other 4CLS member libraries in Broome, Chenango, Delaware, and Otsego counties. Requests from patrons for books not owned by the Cannon Free Library were done by paper through 4CLS headquarters, but there was no way to know if anyone owned the book requested or when the request would be filled. Circulation and acquisitions were all documented through a paper trail.
In 1979, Mrs. Gertrude Stone Cannon (daughter-in-law to Mr. Henry White Cannon) died leaving no close surviving relatives. In keeping with the spirit of Mr. Cannon’s donation of the building to the community, Gertrude Cannon established in her will a well funded gift in trust for the care, maintenance, and future capital improvement of the library and its surrounding grounds.
Barb Onasch and Wiesje Van Wyck started working at the library in 1980, and they began programs for children and adults which have been offered continuously up to today. With the addition of the children’s wing in 1981, children’s programming expanded to include Parents as Reading Partners and Summer Reading Programs in addition to regular pre-school story times.
The library got a computer for staff use in the mid-1980’s that gave access to the 4CLS collection and the collections of the other member libraries. A staff member could verify the request of a patron and email the library that owned the item to request it directly from them. This quickened the response time for receiving inter-library loan materials for patrons. Circulation and other statistics were still maintained manually. Computers were not yet prevalent in the general population and were just beginning to be used in libraries.
In 1996-1997, the Cannon Free Library joined the 4CLS automation system. This allowed for all staff to have access to the holdings of all the 4CLS libraries at the circulation desk so we could tell patrons if their request was available while they were there. We were then able to place the request and it speeded up delivery time. Circulation and acquisition statistics were also done electronically which helped keep records up to date. Other formats such as books on tape and videos were being added to the collection as well. With other libraries in the 4CLS, the Cannon Free Library joined a circuit system of purchasing extra collections of videos, Large Print, and books on tape which rotated among the participating libraries.
Beginning in the late 1980’s, the computers for public use gradually became part of the Cannon Free Library. It started with a game computer for children and a computer for the public to search for items (thus replacing the card catalog) and expanded to public computers for patrons to access materials online and eventually getting Wi-Fi which expanded the public’s access to the internet and other resources. In 2008, the library received public access computers through the Gates Foundation, which at the time was donating computers to all libraries in New York State, thus doubling the number of computers available for public use.
Changes, as with all technology, developed rapidly as personal computers became the norm in most housesholds. Books on tape were replaced by CD’s and VHS videos by DVD’s. Basic library service remained, but patrons now also came to the library to use public computers and to borrow DVD’s and books on CD. The computers had a resource center capability through the 4CLS which allowed patrons to access a range of reference resources.
Patrons could now access and request items from all of the 4CLS member libraries from their own home and have them delivered to the Cannon Free Library. Wi-Fi access allowed patrons to bring their own computers to the library. Around 2010, downloadable books were being purchased by some of the larger libraries in the system. These could also be accessed by the member libraries.
The Cannon Free Library had 2,180 registered patrons in 2017 and circulated 21,818 items. There were 221 meetings at the library for tutoring and study sessions with 877 people attending these meetings. There were 14,656 visitors to the library in 2017. There are 19,889 barcoded items ready to be checked out.
As the community grows, so does our library. In addition to books, DVD’s, and books on CD, we offer music CD’s, toys, and language kits. our program offerings include two weekly story hours, hosting a weekly knitting group, quarterly crafts for children, performers every summer, and hosting six Delhi Historical Society programs a year. We have helped patrons apply for jobs online, acquire an email account, and we even helped a veteran find a fellow soldier from the Vietnam conflict.
Thanks to Mr. Cannon’s forethought, we are fortunate to be located in a convenient, pedestrian friendly location and we have become a community center where people from the area can meet. Our staff know most of our regular patrons by name, and many of our out-of-town visitors are surprised that we also remember their names.
Over the last 100 years, everyone involved with the Cannon Free Library has shared the love of the written word. It began with the founders, the Cannons, continued with the dedication of the library board members, and lives on through the librarians. We all share a determined passion for the growth and improvement of the Cannon Free Library, and all of us believe that the love of reading can be contagious. Our greatest wish is to remain an information hub in our community and to continue to evolve to meet the needs of our patrons in the future.