The Friends of the Emmaus Public Library sponsor many events, including the Annual Book Sale. Click the header to learn more about their mission, activities and membership information.
About the Library — A Brief History
The Emmaus Public Library serves as the home library for the municipalities of Emmaus, Macungie, and Upper Milford Township. It is governed by a policy statement formulated and adopted by a Board of Trustees who meet regularly at the library. Board meetings are open to the public. The current Trustees of the Board are:
- Lisa Marten, President
- Barbara Levinson, Vice President
- Jean Nagel, Secretary
- Ziad Munson, Treasurer
- Maryellen Kanarr, Library Director
- David Cole
- Carl Cramer
- Jenny Kemps
- Audrey Racines
- Yanitza Taylor
The history of the Emmaus Public Library had its beginnings in the 1930s, when the officers and members of the Emmaus High School Alumni Association recognized the need for a public library facility. In 1938, John D. Weaver donated a building on Main Street in downtown Emmaus for that purpose. Since it had to be refurbished for library use, it was not ready until June, 1944 (another building was rented to house the library until that time).
A library board was appointed in 1939, and Dr. Gerald S. Backenstoe became the first president. The new library proved to be a big success in the little borough–by 1949, book circulation had increased to an average of 1,900 per month.
By the mid 1960s, the book collection numbered about 8,000 volumes. Space in the once spacious Main Street building was no longer adequate. The borough population had more than doubled since the library had become a reality. After many citizens devoted countless hours of time and effort to plan for the future of the library, a new program was put into effect. An ordinance was enacted that called for the establishment of a borough library which conformed to the Pennsylvania State Library Code. In April, 1965, federal funds became available, resulting in the construction of a new library facility at Main and Ridge Streets.
The dedication of the “new” Emmaus Public Library took place on June 3, 1966. Mrs. Sheila Hess was chosen librarian. The next year she was succeeded by Mrs. Elaine Timbers, who served until her retirement in 1987. She was succeeded by Mrs. Frances Larash, the present Library Director.
In 1967, Upper Milford Township was the first municipality to seek a contractual agreement with Emmaus for library services for its residents. Lower Macungie was next (1967), followed by Macungie(1969) and Alburtis(1971). The library continued to grow by leaps and bounds, acquiring more books and other materials as the membership continued to increase.
By 1979, the library shelves were bulging with 48,000 volumes–13,000 over capacity. Once again, a committee composed of local volunteer citizens was formed to study the space problem. The result was the establishment of a fund drive to raise money for the recommended addition to the building. Through the generosity of many individuals, service organizations, companies, businesses, and others, construction was completed; the dedication of the much-needed addition was held on September 26, 1982.
In the early 1990’s, a wing dedicated to Margaret Knoll Gardner was funded by a private donor. This wing is used for library meetings and special programs conducted by the library and other organizations. Also, in 1993 a computer fundraising campaign was conducted by volunteer citizens to equip the library for viability in the burgeoning technological age. The campaign was a great success; in August of 1994, the library began to use computers for book circulation. A short time later, the library catalog was computerized as well.
In 1984, the library board approved the establishment of the Endowment Fund to help create a permanent financial resource to keep the library a vital part of the community.
In 1998, a new Friends of the Emmaus Public Library group was established after a group of volunteer citizens met to formulate plans. The Friends have taken over the library’s annual Book Sale, present various educational programs, and help to support the library financially. One of the programs they have established is Words On Wheels, whereby homebound residents can receive materials from the library delivered to their home. In addition, the Friends are good ambassadors for the library in the East Penn community.
In 2001, Lower Macungie Township established its own library, and because of its location, Alburtis became part of the LMT library. This greatly reduced the number of patrons registered at Emmaus Library, although state-wide residents with PA Access stickers on valid library cards may check out materials at EPL after registering.
Because of the reduction in registered patrons, Emmaus Library lost a portion of its income and state aid. However, the staff, the Board of Trustees, and the Friends of the Library all work together to assure that the library will continue to provide the efficient and friendly service that it has in the past. As a member of the Emmaus Main Street Partners, the Emmaus Public Library participates in several events throughout the year including Old-Fashioned Christmas, SnowBlast, and the Halloween Parade.
In 2014, Emmaus began a discussion with 10 other libraries in Lehigh and Carbon counties to form a cooperative lending system. In late 2017, the 11 Libraries agreed to terms to become the Lehigh Carbon Library Cooperative and in 2018 began migrating their Library Systems to SPARK, an Evergreen system endorsed by the nonprofit Pennsylvania Integrated Library System. The currently included libraries are: Catasaqua, Colpay, Dimmick, Emmaus, Lehighton, Lower Macungie, Palmerton, Parkland, Slatington, and Southern Lehigh. The LCLC libraries expect to be able to offer a common card to their patrons in early 2019 and start resource sharing even sooner.
In February 2018, the Library broke ground on its long awaited Children’s Wing Expansion with construction was completed in November of the same year. A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held on November 8 and an open House on November 28, 2018. Local media, politicians, and dignitaries all turned out to support the new wing. November 8, 2018 was decreed “Friends of the Emmaus Public Library Day” by Emmaus Borough Mayor Lee Ann Gilbert.
The Emmaus Public Library Mission Statement, “To enrich our community & inspire lifelong learning by uniting people, ideas, and information” was approved by the Library Board September 16, 2014.
Some of the above information was excerpted from a booklet (The History of the New Emmaus Public Library) issued by the library in 1991 on the occasion of its 25th anniversary.
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