Established on June 15, 1898, Red Hook Public Library has been serving the village of Red Hook for more than 115 years. A provisional charter, signed by Melville Dewey, was granted by the University of the State of New York on June 27, 1898. A permanent charter was granted on April 26, 1904. In 1959 it joined the Mid-Hudson Library System, which brought more than 60 libraries in five counties together to improve services to patrons and codify library services throughout the region. In 2002 a group of residents, with the permission of the Red Hook Library Board of Trustees, formed a Friends group. On January 21, 2003, the Friend’s group incorporated under the title of the Friends of the Red Hook Public Library, Inc.
Built for Allen Barringer Hendricks, son of prominent local businessman Jeremiah Hendricks, the building is a rare surviving example of the nationwide fad for octagons launched in the mid-19th century by phrenologist and author Orson Squire Fowler. The building was the personal residence of the Hendricks family until 1933. It was purchased by the Red Hook Public Library in 1935 for $3,800, and renovated for library use by local builder Frank W. Coons for an additional $900.
Today the Red Hook Public Library has more than 4,500 active cardholders. It is chartered to serve the Village of Red Hook (population 1,961), but serves the entire town of Red Hook as well as a portion of the Town of Milan. The Town of Red Hook is approximately 105 miles north of New York City. It has two villages and two hamlets for a total population of 11,319 (2010 census). It is home to Bard College.
The library has three floors, made ADA-accessible with the construction of an addition to the rear of the building in 2010-2011. A children’s library was created simultaneously, bringing the usable footage to 4,760 square feet.