On January 12th, 1896, a group of local women belonging to the Maccabees Lodge formed a study club. Because these ladies were determined to stay abreast of current events, both local and national, Mrs. Charles Ricker suggested the name “Wide Awake Club.” They could not have chosen a more appropriate name for this forward-thinking, dedicated group. The following year, the members of the Club discussed having a ‘traveling’ library and then a ‘circulating’ library. On December 5th, 1897, a room in the Brooks Building on the corner of Main and Genesee streets was officially opened as the first Wide Awake Club Library. Members of the Wide Awake Club, as well as members of the Allegany County Federation of Women’s Clubs, donated the first collection of books. A year later, discussion turned to a permanent library building, and Mr. Brooks and Mrs. Haines offered the lot behind the Brooks building on S. Genesee St. The 18’ x 24’ building was built at a cost of $456.21 (!), and was dedicated to the public on February 4th, 1899. The permanent charter of the Wide Awake Club Library was granted at 3:30 pm on May 21st, 1903 and signed by Miss Mary Crowley, Mrs. Martha Foote and Mrs. Charles Ricker.
The current building was donated by the State Bank of Fillmore in September, 1974, when they moved to their new building next door.
For the last 110 years, our Wide Awake Club Library has continued to grow by leaps and bounds and has become an integral part of the Fillmore community and the surrounding areas. In statistics collected for a 1939 Northern Allegany Observer newspaper article, we can see the growth in library use over the years:
Total library holdings— 2551 Holdings— 32,039
Total yearly circulation- 2197 Circulation— 39,921
Number of patrons—- 313 Patrons— 2,749
Hours open per week— 6 Hours/week—- 47
On March 20th, 2001, the Wide Awake Club was notified that Fillmore native Cecile E. Mathern had made them a very generous bequest. Club members unanimously agreed that these monies would be invested and earmarked for a new library building in the future. That time has come! We are excited to announce that the Wide Awake Club recently purchased a property at 22 N. Genesee St. for the construction of the new Wide Awake Club Library. The current building is not handicapped-accessible, and its capacity has been stretched to its limits by our growing collections and by technological equipment. That will soon change! Our new Library will have approximately two and a half times the square footage and will include a large community room that will be open to the public for many events and functions.
The venture will go forward using only private funds, donations and grants. NO LOCAL TAXPAYER FUNDS WILL BE USED. The Fillmore community has always been supportive of their library and we are asking for your continued support in this exciting effort.
Miss Mary Crowley said it best at the dedication of the first Wide Awake Club Library in 1903:
“The building is yours;
the books with which it is filled are yours;
the success and prosperity of its future rests in your hands.”