Originally called the Binghamton Public Library, the Broome County Public Library opened in October 1904 after being generously gifted $75,000 by Andrew Carnegie. The building—designed to serve as both a public library and a community center—housed a collection of 14,000 books on the first floor, and an auditorium, the Binghamton Museum of Fine Arts (now part of the Roberson Museum), and the Broome County Historical Society on the second floor.
Over the years, the Library expanded its operations by opening a number of branch libraries and reading stations throughout Binghamton to meet the increasing needs of neighborhoods. The collection grew from 14,000 books to over 300,000 books and periodicals, and included new and emerging media such as records, films, and microfilm. The Library also began to sponsor English as a Second Language classes, lectures, and exhibits, and participated in war efforts.
In 1985, Broome County took over operation of the Library from the City of Binghamton. It was clear that after nearly a century of growth, BCPL was outgrowing its original 23,500-square foot Carnegie building, and through the work of the Broome Library Foundation, the county, and countless individuals and organizations, the new 72,000-square foot Broome County Public Library building opened on November 5, 2000. Thanks to the work of the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier, the original Carnegie building was preserved and now houses the SUNY Broome Culinary and Event Center.
On December 31, 2002, the remaining four branch libraries in the city of Binghamton closed due to budget cutbacks by the city; however, the Broome County Public library’s new building, which incorporated the original concept of the library as a place of community outreach, was prepared to embrace the challenge of absorbing the needs of the community. It included meeting rooms, computers, an exhibit area, and a local history center. Moreover, by joining the Four County Library System as its central library, BCPL was able to significantly expand its impact throughout South Central New York.
In October of 2004, BCPL celebrated its 100th birthday. Throughout the month, various events were held to highlight the Library's service to the community, capping the celebration off with the burying of a time capsule. Today, the Broome County Public Library, whose building is now named for Jeffrey Kraham—once the youngest legislative chairman in the state’s history, and later the Broome County Executive who facilitated the construction of the building— includes many new programs, access to technology, and open public space.
The role of libraries has changed repeatedly over the past 100 years; the Broome County Public Library is no longer simply a repository of books and a community center, but rather a dynamic space with events for teens, meeting rooms, clubs, workshops, happy hours, readings, film nights, and many programs designed to serve everyone from the most disadvantaged to the most privileged members of the community. But although the physical structure and services offered may have changed dramatically since its inception in 1904, what hasn’t changed is the Library’s commitment to the next 100 years of serving the community.