The library was organized in 1932 as the Valley Stream Free Library through the combined efforts of interested citizens. Funds were obtained by conducting card parties; books were donated by the people of Valley Stream. Two rooms above a store on Rockaway Avenue at Valley Stream Boulevard served as the library's first home. Mrs. Elizabeth Kelly was the first librarian. Under her guidance, the library flourished and grew despite great odds, inadequate space, and limited funds.
After the first year, the library boasted a book collection of 4,563 volumes and a circulation of 17,684. Space soon became a major problem and, by December 1935, the library moved into the old vegetable and produce store at 254 Rockaway Avenue. The location was considered more desirable because it was on street level.
Early in 1942, the Village Board purchased the former Queensboro Gas and Electric building at 132 Rockaway Avenue to serve as a permanent home for the library. The move took place on September 12, 1942. The following year, it joined other libraries in support of the Union Catalog. The Catalog, which was housed in the Valley Stream Library, was the beginning of what is now the Nassau Library System.
During the first sixteen years, the library was an association library dependent for its support upon its membership and a small annual appropriation from the Village. Finally, in November 1948, it became a public library supported by municipal funds. A Provisional Charter was granted to the library by the New York State Department of Education, and in 1953, it was granted an Absolute Charter.
The continued growth of the library and the elaboration of its activities by 1961 necessitated the enlargement of its facilities. In May of that year, the Village Board of Trustees approved a $490,000.00 bond issue for a new public library building to be built on the Village Green, adjacent to the Village Hall. Frederick P. Wiedersum Associates were the architects. Construction started in late summer, and by September 1962, the library became a reality. By November, the task of moving from the old Rockaway Avenue building to the new library had started.
At the dedication ceremonies, held on December 2, 1962, Mayor Waldinger cut the ribbon at the canopied entrance and officially opened the library. The following day, it began to serve the people of Valley Stream in its new half-million-dollar building.
The beautiful one-story building holds over 110,000 volumes; it stands nineteen feet high and has 16,840 square feet of floor space. It has a large adult area, a reference section, two tiers of book stacks, a children's room, a work area, director's office, and board room.
On March 10, 1968, the library was renamed the Henry Waldinger Memorial Library of Valley Stream in honor of the first mayor of Valley Stream. At the memorial dedication ceremonies, a plaque was presented by the Kiwanis Club of Valley Stream.
The Henry Waldinger Memorial Library is open to serve the residents of Valley Stream, plus residents of the Mill Brook and North Valley Stream, 57 1/2 hrs. each week. Materials not available locally may be available through Direct Access or Library Interloan through the Nassau Library System.
In July 1997, the library entered a new era when it began circulating its collection using the DRA Online Circulation System. In December 1998, the paper card catalog was removed from the library, and patrons now use OPACs to search the library's holdings. In March 2004, the online circulation system was changed to the Innovative Interfaces Millennium Circulation System.
From January to June 2005, a major renovation of the library took place. New furniture and carpeting were installed. New reading areas and a quiet study room were installed in the Adult Room, and a story time area was added to the Children's Room. This was the first renovation of the library since it originally opened in 1962.
(Adapted from "History of Our Library," HISTORY OF VALLEY STREAM, 1840-1975, compiled and written by Howard F. Ruehl. For further information about the history of Valley Stream, contact the Valley Stream Historical Society.)