In my 15 years working in and visiting public libraries, I have run into some variety. Not nearly to the extent that Craig Magee has (click here to see his story if you haven’t read it), but he’s the exception.
Most public libraries are in functional buildings. It’s not that they aren’t nice buildings or that I am implying that they don’t have character of their own, but they all fundamentally fill a similar role and inevitably have similar characteristics. Public libraries are going to have shelving for books and other materials, space for staff and the public to work, and possibly space for other functions like storage or programs. Some libraries are built from the ground up as libraries. Others are retrofitted spaces (like us – we are in an former medical office). Some library buildings have been added to and renovated many times over the course of years, creating interesting nooks and crannies.
While Craig has been to libraries internationally, I’ve stayed closer to home. Some of the more interesting local and regional public libraries that I have run across:
- Amelia Given Free Library (Mount Holly Springs): This is one of the few local libraries that I am aware of that are on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also rather old for a public library building, built in 1889.
- Moores Memorial Library (Christiana): This is a library in a repurposed bank. What makes it noteworthy is the fact that the bank vault was incorporated into the renovated library.
- Gettysburg Library (Gettysburg): Until 1992, the headquarters of the Adams County Library System was housed in the former Adams County Jail. They then moved to the old Gettysburg Federal Building. While still the Federal Building, President Eisenhower briefly used a room in this building as an office when he was recovering from a health issue. The community room has a large model of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Eisenhower.
- Joseph Simpson Library (Mechanicsburg): This library’s building is thought to have been built as early as the 1840s. It was originally used as a grain warehouse and as a hospital during the Gettysburg campaign. It became a library in mid-1990s.
- Guthrie Memorial Library (Hanover) and Martin Memorial Library (York): Both of these are buildings that have been added to and renovated over the years. They have some interesting spaces because of this. Both have older sections that has lovely balcony areas.
If you are ever visiting a new place, check out the library. You never know what you are going to run into.