The First 300

The Libraries

The Beginnings

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.

Libraries Today

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.

  1. 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.
    Ardmore Free Library. Pictured in this 1910 photo was the second home which was located in the YMCA building on Lancaster Pike. Ardmore Free Library now resides on Ardmore Avenue.
  2. 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.
    Bala Cynwyd Library’s early home was in the Union Fire House. After 47 years at their next home on Levering Mill Road, the library relocated to Old Lancaster Road in 1974, where it continues to serve the community.
  3. 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.
    Ludington Library.1927 photo, when it was dedicated by Charles H. Ludington to the memory of his wife, Ethel Saltus Ludington.
  4. The Penn Wynne Library dates its beginnings to a 1929 donation from the Penn Wynne’s Women’s Club.
    Penn Wynne Library. Its first home was on the corner of Henley and Manoa Roads from 1929 to 1949; it then moved to its present location on Overbrook Parkway.
  5. 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.
    Gladwyne Free Library. Early interior view; note basketball markings on the floor. The chest in the right foreground housed the children’s collection.
  6. 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.
    Belmont Hills Library. Its forerunner was the Bird Library, located on Ashland Avenue from 1941 to 1969, when the library was moved to Mary Watersford Road.