About Us

On August 1, 1961, the Isabel Babson Memorial Library opened its doors on Main Street in Gloucester with a mission to open minds about child rearing. Roger Ward Babson founded the library in memory of his ancestor, Isabel, who was a midwife in the 1600s. Library documents indicate that she came to America from England in 1637 and lived in a log cabin on the land known today as 69 Main Street. Since its founding this has been the library’s permanent address.

Throughout the Cape Ann area, Isabel Babson helped expectant mothers prepare for childbirth in an era where her chosen profession was a dangerous one, since midwifery was considered by some to be an act of witchcraft. Her brave story clearly impacted her descendant Roger Babson (1875–1967).  Mr. Babson was an economist and financier from the area who believed that safe and informed child rearing, as well as the health and well-being of women, were critical to a stable society.

“Basing his beliefs on the medical advice of the times, Roger Babson felt that an expectant mother who was well prepared and not overly concerned about childbirth was more likely to deliver a healthy child,” according to Al Brackett, former Treasurer and Trustee of the library.

Referred to as a family library, the Isabel Babson Memorial Library is unique and remains the only one of its kind in the country. Originally focusing on midwifery, prenatal care, childbirth and child rearing, the library’s core collection has expanded as times have changed and family needs have evolved. Now more than 2,000 titles line the shelves to help patrons answer questions they have on almost every phase of their life. Topics covered include women’s and men’s health issues, marriage, divorce, sex education, adolescent challenges, depression, menopause, autism, sleep disorders, cancer, diabetes, abuse, grief and more.

“Even though we’re small, people are surprised to find so many titles on the specific subjects they’re looking for,” says our librarian. “The number of books we have on raising kids is amazing, but not everyone knows we have books on health issues ranging from nutrition to psychology to relationships and family loss. We also have books on organizing your home and feeling good about yourself.” Although the library doesn’t carry novels, it does stock a pleasure reading section, which is full of memoirs and biographies.

One patron has been going to the Isabel Babson Memorial Library for over 40 years, ever since her oldest child was in diapers. “The library offers just about everything. I’ve been through so many stages in my life and there’s always something there for me. I believe in reading as much as I can because to me knowledge is power,” she says. She also offers some advice for those who haven’t yet discovered the library, which she considers a treasure. “Do yourself a favor. Do good for yourself and keep reading. If you have a problem, go [to the library] because the books are great. And if there is something you can’t find, ask the librarians and they’ll order it for you.”

The Isabel Babson Memorial Library is a non-profit organization that is free and open to the public. There are no late fees and books may be borrowed for two weeks at a time.

The Library is now approaching its 60th anniversary and still remains a valuable resource helping the people of Cape Ann today and into the future.