The Forbes Library opened in 1894, as a result of a bequest by Judge Charles Edward Forbes, who wished to build a public library for the citizens of Northampton. The massive three-story stone building, which is on the Register of Historic Buildings, was designed by William Brocklesby to be completely fire proof with all steel framing and stone, slate, and copper exterior. A complete renovation of the interior was finished in 2001 accentuating many of the Forbes’ unique features such as the glass mezzanine floors, expansive spaces, and the Guastavino arches which actually support the second floor.
The first Librarian of Forbes was Charles Ammi Cutter, who previously created the Cutter Expansive Classification System while he was Librarian at the Boston Athenaeum. He implemented his system at Forbes Library, which is one of only five libraries in the world still using the Cutter System. Originally the library for the newly founded Smith College across the street, Forbes still maintains a close connection to its collegiate neighbors as well as to the vibrant town of Northampton.