The Murrysville Community Library marked its 100th year of service on March 11, 2022. Originally established by the Murrysville Woman’s Club, the Library has since flourished to serve three municipalities with a robust collection of over 66,000 items.
Establishing a library was one of the first projects for the Murrysville Woman’s Club. In a March 15, 1921 letter they affirmed that “The Woman’s Club of Murrysville want to supply a library that will meet the varied needs of the present generation, – a library that will help boys and girls to go to world service better able to do ‘their bit’.”
In 1922, over a hundred years after the founding of Murrysville by Jeremiah Murry, his great-grandson, Judge J.M. Carpenter, presided over the opening ceremonies of the Murrysville School and Community Library. The Library opened with 660 books and five magazine subscriptions. It was opened daily after school for 30 minutes and on Friday evenings.
The Library expanded its operations in 1926, splitting from the school and moving to the former Post Office in Town Square. By then it averaged 59 books loaned each day. By 1935, the Library had amassed 1,200 books and circulated an average of 145 books per month. It was open for ten months of the year for five hours a week and staffed by volunteers from the Woman’s Club.
The Library was moved again in 1954 to the local fire hall. However, by 1958, it had outgrown this space, with 5,000 books, and the Woman’s Club decided to build a Community Center for both their clubhouse and the Library. New ground was broken on October 5, 1958. The construction budget for the 60ft x 60ft building was $30,718.92, of which only $11,600 was financed. The Woman’s Club assumed the responsibility for the mortgage. The new building was constructed in seven months and dedicated on April 26, 1959.
In the 1960s, the Woman’s Club continued to fund and operate the Library. During this period, the Library’s collection swelled to 13,500 books and the Library established its Memorial Book program. In 1969, the Township Supervisors accepted the Library as a recognized community organization. The first Librarian was hired, while the Woman’s Club continued to help staff it with volunteers. A Board of Trustees was also formed to oversee the Library.
In 1982, the Community Center was donated to the Municipality of Murrysville and the entire space was used for the Library. The Woman’s Club raised $250,000 for renovations to the old Library. At the completion of the renovations, the Library was added to the Municipal budget for the first time.
In 1995, new ground was broken on the current Murrysville Municipal Complex. Included in that complex was space for the Library on the second floor. On January 2, 1996, the Murrysville Community Library re-opened in its current space on Sardis Road. Additionally, the Library became a member of the Westmoreland County Federated Library System, also known as the Westmoreland Library Network, during this decade, in 1993.
The Library’s Board of Trustees established the Murrysville Community Library Foundation in 1998. It has become the primary fundraising arm for the Library. Its mission is “to enhance our Library as a community resource by raising public and private funds for special projects and by building an endowment for the financial security and long-term excellence of the Library.”
As technology developed, so did the needs of the Westmoreland Library Network and the Murrysville Community Library. On December 17, 2007, libraries in the county migrated to a new integrated library system, Polaris. The new system allowed for better functionality and library service and was the product of a two-year collaborative endeavor among the Westmoreland libraries.
In 2009, the Library won a David J. Roberts EXCEL Library Service Award from the Pennsylvania Library Association for Best Practices in Early Learning. The award honored the creative work of Carol Siefken, recently retired Youth Services Coordinator, for her program “Growing Readers, Up, Down, and Around.”
In 2013, the Library expanded its Children’s Room with a renovation project. The children’s room space, designed by Design 3 Architecture, expanded the existing area from 510 square feet to 700 square feet and replaced all of the shelving. The project was partially funded by a $50,000 Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund grant. The Murrysville Community Library Foundation raised $450,000 during this time, funding the Children’s Room renovation, funding a total replacement of the library’s technology, including every computer, and building the Library’s endowment. Included in their campaign was the successful Blue Spruce Shoppes Paver Project, one of the Foundation’s most well-known endeavors.
In 2015, a partnership between the Murrysville Community Library and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s Math and Science Collaborative resulted in the creation of Storytime STEM-packs. Originally developed to combat “the summer slide” during summer months between grades, STEM-packs pair a popular children’s book with various scientific concepts. The Library became a pilot site for the program, which has since become successful nationwide.
During the spring of 2021, the Library completed another renovation project, “TechNook”. A memorial project, in honor of Kathleen Smolenski, TechNook was designed by Design 3 Architecture to provide the Library with a flexible programming space. Speakers and other content can be streamed into the library or to the outside world from inside the library.
The Library has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and has spent the past century serving generations of Murrysville, Export and Washington Township residents. Today the Library continues to serve the community by inspiring ideas, enriching lives, and creating lifelong opportunities for learning, literacy and enjoyment.
Special thanks to the Murrysville Woman’s Club, Penn Franklin News and Rebecca Wyss for providing source material for this article.