HistoryClift Rodgers was born in 1806 in Marshfield Massachusetts, where he lived throughout his life, building a fine white house at the corner of Main and Pleasant. The house still stands today. By 1897, at the age of ninety-one, he had amassed a moderate fortune as a leather merchant. Turning to his friend and partner, Lysander Richards, he sought help in the incorporation of a Library Organization and social hall. Before he passed away, he selected the site and donated $5,000 for the construction of a building and its maintenance.
Lysander Richards saw the project through and served as the President of the library from its inception in 1897, until his death in 1927. The six other original trustees were George Weatherbee, Miriam Richards, Marcellus Rogers, James Rogers, Henrietta Hall, Wendell Phillips and Horace T. Fogg. The trustees made regular inspection trips during construction, insuring that the precise building specifications were executed faithfully. Particular attention was given to the stage, since the Trustees planned to present plays for the benefit of the Library, which they would act in themselves.
The original building is on Old Main Street, directly across from the current Christian Science Church. Today it serves as the Parish Hall for the North Community Church.
In his bequest for the Library, Clift Rodgers specified that the hall could be rented for any worthy purpose; the only stipulation was that it must be given free for any Spiritualist meetings, something Clift Rodgers practiced himself.
The hall was hired for church services, lectures, auctions and entertainment of all kinds. It quickly became popular with dance groups from all over the South Shore, particularly since its highly polished floors proved excellent for spirit gliding. Practice of the time called for gentlemen to hide their whiskey behind the library’s rows of books, which they would visit regularly during the course of the dance.
Cotillions, engagement parties, wedding receptions and regular Friday night dances during the summer, provided a regular source of income for the Library until the 1940's. Gradually, these events became fewer in number and eventually ceased altogether. The Library then entered a very difficult period, during which it struggled to remain solvent. At one point, the library's treasurer, Donald Hagar, offered to transfer the library's funds to his personal checking account, to save the $12 annual service charge.
Coinciding with this difficult time in the library's history, The North Community Church determined that they needed a larger building for their Sunday School and other activities. The Library's Trustees, recognizing that the building needed major renovations, and lacking the necessary funds, agreed to exchange the library building for a small building that the church owned on Pleasant Street, that had formerly been Tilden's Store. Even though the library board had voted to approve the exchange, the Rodgers and Richards heirs were strongly opposed. They felt that the library should remain at the original site that Clift Rodgers had personally selected. Legal proceedings were actually initiated to prevent the move. Exhaustive negotiations, however, proved successful and the exchange of buildings took place in August of 1950, after the church had sweetened the deal by donating $150 to purchase new books and supplying parishioners to move books and furniture from one building to another.
Unfortunately, finances remained a constant problem. The church and library tried a number of joint moneymaking projects, including street fairs, which were discontinued after marginal success.
In the fall of 1955, Mrs. Edward Reese, organized the Consignment Shop, which quickly became the library's most important source of funding. The Consignment Shop continues to operate today on the second floor of the library and provides both revenue for the library and a warm and inviting place for friends to meet.
In recent decades, a number of events have supplemented the income that the Consignment Shop provides; an annual direct mail Fund Raising Drive, prominent local guest speakers, a silent auction, garden tour and annual used book sale all help support the generous donation of time and resources from local Businesses, trustees and friends of the library. This community collaboration has allowed the library to regularly update and renovate the building. In recent years, the basement has been extensively upgraded, including the plumbing and heating. The furnace has been replaced as well as the upstairs ceiling and the floors have been refinished, both upstairs and down.
Today's library collection focuses heavily on current fiction. Clift Rodgers Library is not a reference library; there isn't even a card catalog in evidence! This is a library for pleasure readers, both adult and child. The Book Committee and the librarians, who do their best to fulfill patron's requests, to choose what books to purchase.
The current board recently ratified an updated mission and vision statement, as a means to communicate the aims and spirit of the library:
"The Mission of Clift Rodgers Library is to respond to the reading needs and interests of its community of readers."
"The Vision of Clift Rodgers Library is to remain true to its historic mission and traditional roots, to move forward with updated offerings that will sustain and grow its patron base, and to maintain financial stability."
So as the Clift Rodgers Library moves on into its second century, books are donated, walls are painted, snow is shoveled and flowers are planted by volunteers who love and want to see preserved, this little gem in your own backyard.