The library was founded after two preliminary meetings on 24 October and 11 December 1940. On 1 January 1941, the library was officially dedicated as a community project, “free for lending and free for reference.” The original Board of Trustees consisted of nine members, appointed to one and two year terms:
Henry L. Betcher, Avalon Fire Company
Mrs. Daniel Bucy, Avalon PTA
P. C. Cost, Borough Council
Mr.s C. P. Dils, Avalon Women’s Club
Herbert J. Fabricius, Avalon Fire Company
D. A. Gunn, Avalon School Board
Charles Kleine, Avalon Heights Community Club
R. E. Newlin, Borough Manager
A. A. Thompson, Avalon PTA
Mrs. W. M. Young, Avalon Women’s Club
The library began with donations of desks, books, typewriters, and money from organizations and individuals. Further funds were raised at a 5 June 1942 Tag Day sale. The library was open Monday through Friday from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. The volunteer librarian and two assistants were paid twenty-five cents an hour for their work.
The Avalon Public Library was first opened in 1946, in a small basement room of the Avalon Elementary School. It was originally spearheaded by Dr. Joseph Baldridge, a local dentist, who worked with the Avalon Woman’s Club to found the library. The library’s collection was originally only a small number of children’s books.
Dr. Baldridge, one of the library’s founders, moved to Bellevue in 1954. The Avalon Women’s Club instituted its own Library Department to staff and maintain the library, under the guidance of Mrs. A. Love. Mrs. Muriel Kennedy volunteered to catalog books with the aid of other members. Mrs. Love also circulated a petition among Avalon residents seeking better library funding from the Borough Council. The petition was well received, and an additional $1,800.00 per year was allotted to the growing library.
Until 1967, the library’s hours were very limited (3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays), and the library’s hours expanded only slightly in 1967, adding Monday and Thursday evenings between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. to the former schedule.
In 1973, the library moved into the basement of the Borough building at 640 California Avenue after more than a year of fundraising efforts. The collections had grown to over 15,000 items in many different categories, including periodicals; adult, children’s, and teen fiction and nonfiction; books on tape; and stand-alone computers.
The library board was also re-vamped when the library moved. Newly enacted PA state law required that library boards have between five and seven members in order for libraries to receive state aid. The current library board of five members reflects this.
The move to new quarters allowed the library to expand its hours, as well, serving the public between ten and thirty hours a week between 1970 and 2002. The library volunteer group also elected a part-time paid librarian from their own ranks in 1970, and, until 2002, there was always a paid library staff of one at the Avalon Public Library.
By the late 1990s, however, an increased community demand for library services, coupled with the age of and problems associated with the library’s basement location, started the borough thinking about moving the library to a larger space and hiring a professional librarian to serve the community on a full-time basis. In August 1997, funds from the Regional Asset Development were disbursed to the library for the first time, allowing for the hire of a part-time clerk in addition to the librarian (also part-time). Although nothing could be done immediately about new space for the library, in 2001 the borough and library board hired a full-time professional librarian and a part-time professional library assistant.
In 2000, borough officials had noticed that a local church was selling its building. Then-State Representative David Mayernik helped the borough to find PA Community Development grant money to purchase, remodel, and furnish the former church as a new space for the library. The library today retains many of the church’s architectural elements, such as its columns, vestibule, and raised altar area (which now contains the children’s area and library offices).
The library was dedicated in its new location at 317 South Home Avenue on June 1, 2002. It was intended to be a “jewel box” to benefit the entire community, and was designed by prominent architect Daniel Franus.
The library’s current collections and community programs serve Avalon and the surrounding communities. The library is a member in both the eiNetwork–which provides computer networking services to all public library patrons in Allegheny County–and the Allegheny County Library Association–a federation of libraries (including the Carnegie Library system in Pittsburgh) who share their collections and expertise throughout Allegheny County.
The Avalon Public Library was founded with the aim of serving everyone equally through its lending services and access to information, and that mission is still true today. In the future, the library hopes to expand its holdings, to acquire more multimedia items, to increase the cultural diversity of its collections to reflect the changes in our community, and to offer programs and assistance to readers and learners of all ages. The Avalon Public Library is funded through a mix of borough, state, and federal funding. If you get good service at the library, please tell your council members, mayor, and state representatives and senators. If there’s something you’d like to suggest the library offer, let us know!