The Lower Merion Library System
The Lower Merion Library System (LMLS) is made up of six libraries that all began because members of their communities felt that a library was an essential community resource. Five of the libraries formed the Lower Merion Library Association in 1935, qualifying for access to funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The name was changed to the Lower Merion Library System in 1994 to convey the idea of six distinct entities – Belmont Hills joined the group in 1961 – working together to achieve common goals. An outstanding staff of professionals, and community commitment, ensure that LMLS consistently ranks among the top libraries in the country.
Ardmore Free Library
The first of the township libraries, Ardmore Free Library began in 1899 when the Women’s Club of Ardmore started the library with six dollars and 300 books. In 1917 Ardmore Library was built as an addition to the women’s clubhouse, where it still stands today. As Ardmore grew, additional space was needed and in 1924, Charles Ludington, Vice President of Curtis Publishing Company, funded a new wing in honor of his wife. The unusual fountain built in front of the library at the same time remains an Ardmore landmark. In 1995-96 a Community Development Block Grant funded a new children’s room and multipurpose program room within the original library structure.
Bala Cynwyd Memorial Library
As in Ardmore, the area Women’s Club was the founding organization of Bala Cynwyd Memorial Library in 1915. After residing in a fire house, one of the library’s early buildings was dedicated in 1927 in memory of those who served in World War I. The building that currently houses the library was built by the Township and dedicated in 1974, when it received national public attention as a combined school/public library project. Expanded in 1999, today this library serves as the Reference Resource Library on the eastern end of the Township and has a special emphasis on music
Belmont Hills Library
In 1935 three women from Belmont Hills opened a library – called West Manayunk Free Library – in St. Andrews Chapel. Originally a branch of Bala Cynwyd Library, it became independent in 1941, taking the name Bird Memorial Library in memory of a rector’s wife, Mrs. Benjamin Newcomer Bird. As circulation grew, the library moved to larger quarters several times. In 1969 a new library was opened at its current location. Community contributions, an allocation from the Township Board of Commissioners and a Commonwealth grant funded construction. It has not seen major renovations or improvements since it was built.
Gladwyne Free Library
The beautiful two-story stone building that now houses the Gladwyne Free Library was erected in 1921 by the Episcopal Diocese as Gladwyne Community Hall. In 1931, Maud and Stuart Bell established a community library in one room of Gladwyne Hall, soliciting donations of the Library’s first books. Six months later, with a private donation and a $600 per year contribution from the Township Commissioners, the library was able to buy supplies and a few new books. The Library Board took over the building in 1938. With private donations, the building has been renovated several times. On its second floor, the library houses the 1700 volume Pennsylvania Collection, important to the study of local and state history.
The first library in Bryn Mawr was founded in 1916. As at Ardmore , Charles Ludington provided funds for a 1926 expansion and the library was named in memory of Ethel Saltus Ludington, a fervent believer in the free library movement. Funds were raised through public subscription for three subsequent expansions, encircling the original building. Immediately after the last expansion in 1986, 134,000 people visited Ludington Library; by 2007, that number had grown to over 352,000. Today, Ludington serves as the main reference library of the Lower Merion Library System. It is the largest system library and its hallmark is its quality reference service.
Penn Wynne Library
Penn Wynne Library was born from true community involvement. In 1929 it was started in a real estate office by a group of women whose sons mowed the lawn, husbands painted the shutters and local merchants repaired the roof. The Library was officially incorporated in 1932 and the current building on Overbrook Parkway opened in 1949. In 1959 the library doubled in size through the generosity of Martin Decker, paving the way for more varied programming and a larger collection. The last expansion was in 1989, when the Board completely renovated the library and expanded the children’s room.