Lexington’s earliest library, established in 1827, was the first tax-supported library in Massachusetts.
In 1898, Maria Hastings Cary presented Lexington with a challenge gift of $1,000. The Town agreed to match this sum if $400 or its equivalent in books could be raised in additional private donations. Lexington residents exceeded the fundraising goal and a new free library was established with an initial collection of 1,200 books.
In 1906, Alice Butler Cary memorialized her mother, Maria Hastings Cary, with a new building inscribed with her name. Designed by renowned architect and Lexington resident Willard Brown, the elegant structure housed 2,617 volumes in this small farming community of 2,250 people. There was no sewage system and no streetlights. Yet Lexington proudly offered a free public school system and eagerly embraced the creation of a free public library for all.
Today, Lexington is a thriving town with a population exceeding 33,000. Cary Library’s books, magazines, audio, e-books, and other holdings total nearly 300,000 items, with a total annual circulation of over 800,000.
In 1999, Cary Library’s Board of Trustees created the Cary Memorial Library Foundation as the official organization for accepting donations to Cary Library. The Foundation enables every Lexington citizen to be both a stakeholder and a steward of Cary Library. Each of us can ensure that future generations will benefit from our generosity, just as we have benefited from the foresight of the Cary family.
The Foundation’s first act was to raise $4.2 million toward the $15 million Library building renovation completed in 2004. Since 2009, the Foundation has raised $1.5 million to support the Library’s collections, to launch new programs, and to upgrade the Library’s technology and physical environment.