Forbes Library is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2019. The library building was completed in 1893 and then took a full year to open while the newly hired director, Charles Ammi Cutter, went to Europe to assemble a collection in time for its opening in October of 1894.

During this anniversary year Forbes Library will be holding special events and presenting exhibits both online and in the gallery about the library’s history. We will also publish histories about prominent people and events connected to Forbes Library, along with great photos and personal stories.

The theme for our anniversary year is “Working for the Common Good” and it is inspired by the book, “The Common Good,” by Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. The book explores a concept that dates back to ancient Greek philosophy and was a guide in the founding principles of our nation. The Common Good refers to what is shared by a given community for the benefit of all members, as well as what is achieved through active participation in a society through public service or collective action. Public libraries are an embodiment of this principle and a cornerstone in our democracy.

Forbes Library was founded through a bequest by Judge Charles E. Forbes who wrote in his will, “it has been my aim to place within reach of the inhabitants of a town, in which I have lived long and pleasantly, the means of learning, if they are disposed to learn…” Forbes Library is one of our community’s collectively held resources that enriches individual lives as well as the community at large through its collections and services. The gorgeous and iconic building itself is a collectively held resource that welcomes everyone in our community to enter through its doors and supports people to leave richer in knowledge and more closely connected to others.

We are very excited to share this anniversary year with you, our community. This is a time to celebrate and explore what binds us together; what we can learn from the past and how we envision growing and evolving. We must also acknowledge that we are in a period of rapid cultural change being driven in large part by technology as well as a time with much uncertainty and upheaval in our country. Let the library’s anniversary year be an opportunity for you to read, discover, and be inspired as well as to celebrate our common good.


Katy Wight, Trustee, Chair of 125th Anniversary Committee
Lisa Downing, Director

P.S. You can find out about all of our great anniversary events at and engage with us through this anniversary year on social media @forbeslibrary.

One Paragraph in the Will of Judge Forbes

Essay by Susan Stinson

Forbes Library turns page on first 125 years

Northampton’s Forbes Library turns page on first 125 years – Springfield Republican/MassLive, February 24, 2019

Forbes Library Timeline

An overview of Forbes Library’s 125 years.

Online exhibits

In celebration of Forbes Library’s 125th anniversary year, a variety of images and objects from the Library’s local history collections are featured in the Hosmer Gallery. These monthly displays can be seen in our online Images From the Archives.

Our Community Sing 2018

We kicked off our 125th year with Our Community Sing on September 23, 2018. This year is the 100th anniversary of the community sings in the summer of 1918 when, as WWI was drawing to a close, thousands gathered on the Forbes Library lawn to sing and socialize. To honor the anniversary, the community was invited to gather on the lawn to raise spirits, support peaceful resolutions of conflicts, and confirm our sense of community by singing together.

Photo of Community Sings 1918 and 2018

125th Anniversary Celebration Events