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The Institute Library Executive Director Valerie Garlick. Photo by Matt Higbee.
In 1826, a group of young men who had been meeting regularly in New Haven to read their writing to each other decided to form a library association. They pooled their money to purchase books and began hosting public speaking events on a wide range of subjects, from the instructional to the political. The Young Men’s Institute was born.
For the next half-century, the institute vigorously pursued its mission of “mutual assistance in the attainment of useful knowledge.” In addition to circulating books before there was a city public library, it hosted talks by Henry Ward Beecher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Anna E. Dickinson, Frederick Douglass and other famous 19th-century speakers. It was also a meeting place for abolitionists and advocates for women’s suffrage.
After a relatively quiet 20th century, the Young Men's Institute, now known as the Institute Library, is once again a cultural force in New Haven. Continue reading here.