GHS Library History

The Mary A. Kingsbury Library at Glastonbury High School

Dedicated on October 4, 1953

The Glastonbury Free Academy

The Glastonbury High School Library enjoys a unique relationship with the Glastonbury Free Academy.

Established in 1792, The Glastonbury Academy was a private school, charging tuition fees, and providing secondary education to those who could afford it. In 1890 the school opened its doors to the public and began operating as The Glastonbury Free Academy (GFA).

When Glastonbury High School was established in 1902, The Glastonbury Free Academy turned over its property and building to the town.The Glastonbury Free Academy has continued to maintain its corporate existence and oversee the endowment fund remaining from its days as a tuition charging institution. In 1953 The Corporators voted to use monies from the fund as an annual supplement to the Board of Education budget. Believing that their charge is to promote higher education, the GFA gives these funds to the high school library.

When a new high school building was erected in 1953, its library was named the Mary A. Kingsbury Library in honor of a graduate of The Glastonbury Free Academy who was the first public school librarian in the United States.

"Miss Mary A. Kingsbury, class of '99 [Pratt Institute Library School] has been appointed librarian of the Erasmus Hall High School of Brooklyn" (Library Journal, June, 1900). "This begins the history of professionally trained librarians managing school libraries in the United States" (Pioneers and Leaders in Library Services to Youth by Marilyn Lee Miller).

Mary Aurelia Kingsbury, born in 1865, was a graduate of The Glastonbury Free Academy. In 1890 she returned to The Free Academy as a teacher and assistant principal. In 1891 Mary and her sister organized a public library housed in The Glastonbury Free Academy building. This public library moved to several buildings until it found a permanent home and was dedicated as the Welles-Turner Memorial Library, Glastonbury's public library, in 1952.

In 1898 Miss Kingsbury entered Pratt Institute Library School, Brooklyn, New York. Mary W. Plummer, head of the school, described Mary Kingsbury as "the most brilliant member of the most brilliant class ever to be graduated from Pratt" (Wilson Library Bulletin, September, 1951). Upon completion of her studies, Mary worked as a cataloger of Greek and Latin text at the University of Pennsylvania. She also worked as a cataloger for the American Society of Civil Engineers in New York City.

Mary A. Kingsbury

While Mary was attending Pratt, the Erasmus Hall Academy in Brooklyn followed the path of many private academies at the time and became a New York City public high school. Its first principal, Walter B. Gunnison, wanted a trained professional librarian in charge of the school's library. Mary Plummer recommended Mary Kingsbury for the job. Kingsbury passed the first examination ever given by the New York Board of Education for the position of librarian, becoming the first professional school librarian in the United States at Erasmus Hall High School in June 1900. Mary Kingsbury's management of the Erasmus Hall Library made an impact on the school, convincing principals and superintendents of the value of having a librarian in schools (Pioneers and Leaders in Library Services to Youth by Marilyn Lee Miller).

Miss Kingsbury returned to Glastonbury upon her retirement from Erasmus Hall in 1931. In 1937 she was recognized as the first public school librarian in the United States and honored by the Connecticut School Library Association, The American Association of School Librarians and the American Library Association. In October of 1953, the library in Glastonbury High School's new building was dedicated in her honor.

Mary A. Kingsbury died in 1958, a true pioneer in her field. She is buried in St. James Cemetery in Glastonbury, CT.

In March of 2007, a new addition to the Mary A. Kingsbury Library opened providing a silent study area and a reading room named for Virginia A. Knox. Knox, a Glastonbury native who died in 2002, was a historian, a librarian, and a life Corporator of The Glastonbury Free Academy. The Virginia A. Knox Reading Room was furnished by the Glastonbury Free Academy Corporation.

Virginia A. Knox