The Women’s Club of Ardmore, a group of forward-thinking, civic-minded women, established the Ardmore Free Library in 1899. The first of Lower Merion’s six libraries, Ardmore started with little more than six dollars in the treasury, 300 books, and big plans for the future. The collection was housed in a rented room of the Merion Title and Trust Building, where its resources were accessible to the entire community. In 1917, the Women’s Club erected a clubhouse and attached a separate wing that gave the library a permanent home on Ardmore Avenue. The Ardmore Free Library still stands there today.
As the community grew, so did the need for additional space. In 1924 Charles Ludington added a new wing to the library to honor the memory of his late wife, Ethel Saltus Ludington. The original wing became the children’s room, while the new addition housed the adult collection. Although the original clubhouse was demolished in 1981, the 1917 and 1924 additions remain as the present Ardmore Free Library. 1924 also brought the installation of the ornamental fountain still found in front of the library today. Miss Kate Clevenger donated the fountain in memory of her brother William. Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, a sculptor of national significance, created the unique centerpiece for the fountain. In 1935 the Ardmore Free Library joined the other independent libraries within Lower Merion Township to establish the Lower Merion Library Association. Since 1960, Ardmore has operated as part of this System.
On January 4, 2016, Ardmore reopened after a one year restoration and renovation project. The renovation preserved the ambiance of the library and addressed much-needed improvements. The reorganization of the existing floor plan made formerly unusable space into new quiet reading and study areas for patrons. The installation of a new ADA-compliant elevator provided increased access to educational and social opportunities. Upgraded technology and a small conference room can also be found in the library.
Although the Women’s Club of Ardmore disbanded in 1987 after 93 years of service to the community, their legacy lives on in the Ardmore Free Library. The Library continues to play a central role in the community, often bustling with patrons browsing the shelves for interesting books, music, movies, and audio books. Residents can be found on the computers searching for jobs online and working with tutors to learn English or pass the GED exam. Story time is crowded with children bursting with excitement to go on a new adventure, and instructive and enjoyable programs fostering excitement about learning and reading are frequently offered.