History & general info.
The Public Library for Union County, headquarters of the three-member federated Union County Library System, offers free public access to a wide range of materials, programs, and services. Located at 255 Reitz Boulevard in the Brookpark Farm development just west of Lewisburg, PA, the library is open six days a week.
The public library had its beginnings in 1831 as a Sunday school library for the First Presbyterian Church on Market Street in Lewisburg. In the late 1890s William Himmelreich, a philanthropic Lewisburg businessman and active member of the church, purchased 500 volumes to form the nucleus of a religious studies library. He also endowed the library with $15,000 to construct a separate building as well as $15,000 to purchase additional books. The William D. Himmelreich Memorial Library was dedicated on November 7, 1902.
The library evolved over the years and officially became a public institution in the early 1960s, when it began to receive state funds. By the 1980s it was clear that a new building was needed for the growing collection. Land on the former Reitz farm was donated by Dan and Audrey Baylor, and ground was broken on Sept. 6, 1988, for a modern 11,200-square-foot facility named “The Public Library for Union County.”
In 1989, to meet requirements for continued state funding, the Union County Commissioners officially recognized that the library served residents of the entire county. On April 24, 1989, the new building opened to the public, and the Himmelreich Library returned to its original purpose and became a private Christian resource center.
Use of The Public Library for Union County increased so much that in 1996 a 3,000 square foot children’s wing was added with the help of the Edna M. Sheary Trust.
Lewisburg Borough provided funding for the library from 1971 to 1998, at which time the Union County Commissioners enacted a county-wide tax to support the newly created Union County Library System. The three-member system also includes Herr Memorial Library in Mifflinburg and the West End Library in Laurelton.
In 2000, the Union County Library System asked for and received state monies to have each library’s shelf list – a record of every piece of cataloged material – converted into machine readable catalog, or MARC, format. Volunteers spent many hours matching the bar codes to the books and other items in the collections. After the conversion was completed, the libraries’ circulation systems were integrated and automated through an Internet-based service that allows more efficient management and easier access to the materials at all three facilities.
Use of The Public Library for Union County continued to grow, and in 2007 the Board of Trustees decided that it was necessary to upgrade and enlarge the facility. An extensive $2.5 million expansion and renovation project was completed in April 2009. The expansion included new restrooms, a larger parking lot and safer handicapped spaces, more shelf space for materials and computers, and a larger multi-purpose public space that can be used by community groups.
A project to redesign the individual websites of the Union County Library System’s member libraries and relocate them to a single, more comprehensive site was completed in June 2010.
From 34,426 books and 938 audio-visual items in 1989, The Public Library for Union County’s collection has grown to 97,471 books and 5,203 audio-visual items in 2010 and includes many kinds of books on tape and CD, music CDs, videotapes, and DVDs.
The library’s non-circulating reference collection features a variety of valuable resources, including a “Pennsylvania Collection” of most major genealogical and Pennsylvania history texts. Notable books include Samuel P. Bates’ 19th-century histories of Columbia, Montour, and Franklin counties, his 1869 History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, and William Henry Egle’s 1876 History of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well as his Notes and queries: Historical and genealogical, chiefly relating to interior Pennsylvania, first published in 1894.
The Pennsylvania Collection also features several family histories, registers of births, the 1852 Pennsylvania Archives, and hundreds of other books covering Pennsylvania historical topics, including materials about Native Americans. One of the more unusual items is A Lenape-English dictionary from an anonymous 1888 manuscript found in the archives of the Moravian church at Bethlehem, PA.
Through a partnership with Erica Shames, founder and publisher of “Susquehanna Life Magazine” and “Susquehanna Business Life Magazine,” and Tamsen Ercole, managing editor of the magazines that began in July 2010, the library now offers a special body of books and magazines with information about all facets of contemporary life in Pennsylvania. The “Susquehanna Life Magazines Pennsylvania Collection” is a new collection of 115 high-quality books as well as issues of “Susquehanna Life,” published since the magazine’s inception in 1993, and “Susquehanna Business Life,” published since its inception in 2008.
The Public Library for Union County also offers creative and educational programs for children, teens, and adults throughout the year.