The Watkins Glen Public Library was founded as the Ladies’ Library in 1870 in one room on the second floor of the National Bank Building. It occupied rooms in five locations until 1940, when it moved to several lovely upstairs rooms in the new Watkins Glen Municipal Building. Chartered first as a school district public library in 1896, in 1954 the charter was extended to correspond to the newly formed Watkins Glen Central School District. By the 1980’s, Trustees recognized that the library had outgrown its space, and that the second floor location was not freely accessible to all. In 1987 the library settled in at 610 South Decatur Street, with a street-level building of its own. Circulation jumped as the library became a community crossroads. That same year a special collection on Career and Business Information was established in memory of Sandra Franzese Black, and a collection on Motor Racing History was housed in an alcove dedicated to the Collier Brothers, Miles and Sam. By the late ’90s the Motor Racing collection had overflowed its alcove, and a new addition was built in honor of the 50th anniversary of racing in Watkins Glen. The addition became the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, an independent nonprofit organization.
The Friends of Watkins Library (FOWL) was founded in 1977 by Mary Lemak and Charlotte Callanan. Each year FOWL supports many activities, including a Books Sandwiched In series, the annual Used Book Sale at the Schuyler ARC, and the Light Up the Lake flare sale on July 4th. The Friends also support beautification of the library through plants and flowers, and repairs and improvements.