CLARKS SUMMIT — This Saturday, Jan. 11, will mark 60 years to the day that the Abington Community Library was created. Renee Roberts, library project manager, helped plan an event to commemorate the occasion.
“We’re excited,” Roberts said. “It’s a way for our community to come in and celebrate with us. We just want people to come in for cake, interact with us and share what the library has meant to them.”
Since its inception when a group of local volunteers met on Jan. 11, 1960 with the Pennsylvania State Library Association and formed the Abington Library Association, the library’s story has been one of continuing growth.
With a dedicated committee, donations from area residents and a book collection campaign, the Abington Community Library opened its doors on June 21, 1960. The library’s first location was at 420 South State St. It opened for three days a week with 750 books.
In September of 1960, the library had 2,750 books. By its first anniversary the library had outgrown its location and plans were made to expand. Donated books continued to pour in. A children’s reading room, office space and a reference department were added. Six years later, the library moved to 510 School St. with 5,000 volumes and reference materials. The new location, renovated under the direction of George Nichols, offered more room for books, office and meeting spaces and a children’s area.
In May 1991, ground was broken at the present location at 1200 West Grove St. The new building’s doors opened on March 2, 1992. Originally 10,000 square feet, the library expanded in October 2002 with the addition of the children’s room, increasing the library’s size to 14,500 square feet.
“I remember when the children’s room opened,” Roberts said. “I would have been five or six years old. I loved the library and looked forward to coming. My mom and grandmother were always involved with the library, so it’s emotional for me. The library has always been instrumental in my life and now to be working here - it’s really come full circle.”
The Abington Community Library currently serves 11 municipalities and is one of seven libraries in the Lackawanna County Library System. It houses 197,136 physical items and 13,685 electronic items according to its last annual report. The 161,902 people who visit the library annually find that it has the longest operating hours in the system, open 71 hours a week.
“The community supports it,” Sandy Longo, library director said. “We are open [9 a.m. to 9 p.m.]. People come after work, or to our story times for children and people look for those Saturday and Sunday hours. It’s really phenomenal. I believe this library has done so well over the years because of the tremendous support from our community and our volunteers, beginning with our trustees and also our Friends of the Abington Community Library organization. They do two enormous book sales a year and support our programming and events.”
Over the years, programs have been added with total program attendance for adults at 6,292 per year. More than 12,000 children and teens attend programs at the Abington Community Library. Longo said STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program attendance is 2,500 annually with 151 STEM programs.
“We make a concerted effort to populate our programs with STEM because we know how critical that is in the formative years for children,” Longo said.
“We have such an active and engaged community,” Roberts said. “They check out books, they come to our programs. Not everyone has that in their community. Not every library has such an engaged community.”
The Abington Community Library continues to thrive. On Saturday, the library plans to honor its 60-year legacy. The community room will host a display of pictures and scrapbooks collected, representing people and events from the past 60 years. The public may attend the free anniversary party at the library from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cake and coffee will be served. Board president, Carol Rubel will have some opening remarks at the event. Another celebration to mark the library’s 60th anniversary, will be held in June.
“I think the library has done well because it is tuned to the needs of the community and it’s responsive. It’s not reactive, in the sense that it doesn’t wait until something appears in the community and then develop a program afterwards. It’s proactive,” Rubel said.
“The staff and volunteers have open ears. They listen to what’s happening in the community and the interests and the concerns of patrons. Then, they work diligently to provide programming that’s responsive. ... Every program that we offer is slotted into the schedule with diligence and dedication. We provide purposeful programming.
“We may be undervalued, but that’s because we are quiet. We are the whisper in the Abingtons that’s not always heard. It’s the old anachronistic descriptor that people use about libraries. It’s a place where you whisper. Like many of the best things in life we whisper, we don’t roar. We whisper, but in a different way.
“We keep our ears open and our sensitivity piqued. The continued service that the Abington Community Library provides is the whisper that’s consistent in the community. We are consistently providing things that people in this community need and have for 60 years and will for 60 years more.”