City Island Library celebrates centennial

The City Island Library, which was the first public library to serve the outer boroughs, is celebrating its centennial this year.

The City Island branch of the New York Public Library system has been serving City Island and the Bronx since 1911. Although officials have not been able to pin-point an exact date for when the library was founded, research shows that the branch was established as part of the city’s library system 100 years ago – the same year the main branch on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street opened – making it the first branch to serve people outside of Manhattan.

“I was surprised to hear it was one of the oldest in the city,” said Barbara Dolensek, of the City Island Civic Association, whose research uncovered its significance as the first sub-branch to serve the outer boroughs. “I knew it had been around a long time. I thought it had been run privately, but it was established with trustees from the New York Library.”

At first, the library was established with a collection donated by local residents, but soon the city donated books so that the branch would be able to lend books to members.

The library now offers one of the largest collections of nautical literature in the city, and is regularly used by people from as far away as Queens.

Library and City Island officials are still trying to pinpoint the exact location where the library was first established. Records show that by 1961 the library was housed in the building at 325 City Island Avenue, where Papa John’s Pizza restaurant now stands. Years later the library moved into the facility it now occupies at 320 City Island Avenue, where it underwent a major expansion in 1997.

Since its earliest days, the library has been widely used by City Island residents and has hosted programs such as puppet shows and story time to raise money for services and entertain the community.

Today it is no different. The library continues to provide dozens of topical programs geared toward educating and entertaining the public.

“My son is involved in all the programs,” said Jim Glynn, who came to the library on Friday, January 14, with his son Aran. “We’re here about three times a week. My son comes here to work, play with other kids and use the computers. There’s so many things for him to do here.”

Library officials are hoping to host a screening of the movie “City Island” in honor of the anniversary once they find out the actual date the library was established. In the meantime, library manager Vershell Wigfall plans to host as many events related to the history of the library as possible.

“When we found out, I said we have to do something about this. We’re going to try to do something every month,” she said. “It’s sort of a conversation piece around here. Everyone is so excited to see this is happening.”

Contact the library at (718) 885-1703 to learn about its upcoming events.

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