Education expanded beyond the walls of the Lower Merion Academy into the community when, in 1842, the Trustees established the Lower Merion Library Company which resided in the third floor Committee or Library Room.
In 1876, the entire collection of 1,400 volumes was relocated to the Union Sunday School building.
With the construction of the Cynwyd Elementary School in 1914, students transferred from the Academy into their new building. The Union Sunday School was removed, leaving the library without a home. The entire collection is now with the Lower Merion Historical Society.
There are six community-based libraries which service the Lower Merion Library System. Their histories parallel the social customs of an era in which women’s clubs and volunteerism figured prominently in the promotion of library endeavors.
The history of The Ardmore Free Library is bound to that of its loyal benefactors, the Women’s Club of Ardmore. In 1899, the club rented a room in the old Merion Title and Trust building and equipped it with a library not only for the use of club members, but for the community.
The Bala Cynwyd Library began in 1915 as an ambition of the Women’s Club of Bala Cynwyd. Since space was not available at the Academy building, the Bala Cynwyd Library Association used part of the Union Fire House as their home.
In 1916, Bryn Mawr witnessed the emergence of the Community Center Library which was located in the old Public School building on Lancaster Pike. Ludington Library, today, is the main branch of all the community-based libraries.
The Penn Wynne Library dates its beginnings to a 1929 donation from the Penn Wynne’s Women’s Club.
The Gladwyne Free Library opened its doors in 1930 at the front of the Gladwyne Community Building. This library is the only one to have remained in its original location.
Belmont Hills Library. In 1935, three women opened a library in St. Andrew’s Chapel. Named West Manayunk Free Library, it was a branch service of the Bala Cynwyd Library run under the auspices of the Girls Friendly Society. In 1941, the library moved and was renamed.
—Written by Liz Eidelson; Research: Denise H. Francis