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Meadville was founded in 1787, and the first library was established in 1812, with 150 volumes. The library contained the standard works of the time in history, biography and travel, but by policy, no fiction. A citizen could use the library if he donated a dollar and a volume annually.
In 1868, the City Library of Meadville was formed. Anyone could become a member by paying a dollar. Patrons could take out only one volume for a two week period. Fines were ten cents per week. It was open Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and Saturday evenings until 9:00. In 1870 the library had 700 volumes and 230 members.
In 1879 the Meadville Library Art and Historical Association was organized by joining the library with the Art and Historical Societies. In order to buy a building, shares of stock were sold for $25.00. One can still buy a share of stock for $25.00. The Library was supported by rentals, gifts and annual association dues of five dollars. In 1895 the library was opened to citizens free of charge.
In 1908 the library began to receive aid from the public school system.
In 1924 a fund drive for $100,000 to finance a new library building was begun. Within a week the total was raised , all from local sources. The new building opened its doors in 1926, and the same building continues to be the home of the library. The building was designed by Edward L. Tilton, a leading architect of the day and an expert on libraries. It used the same red brick and sandstone as the high school across the street and on all four sides huge arched windows extended from floor to ceiling “leaving no shadow to distract the reader.”
The President of the Library Board said at the formal opening, “In this building the youth of Meadville may gain inspiration from the great minds of Earth which shall lead them to live, to think and to do all the better things of life.” A noble sentiment, one which guides the library to this day.
Through the years, several major renovations have occurred, which enlarged the space actually used by the library. In the renovation of 1968, local funds were again quickly raised and the public was asked to store 22,000 of the library’s 26,000 books. It is estimated that only about 100 books were not returned when the library reopened. The Children’s room was expanded with a one story addition in 1985.
In 1978 The Crawford County Federated Library System was established which included all the county libraries. This enabled all citizens of Crawford County to use any library in the county.
At various times, the library budget was very tight and measures such as reduced hours and services had to be instituted. One such crisis in 1986 caused all the county libraries to band together and work to pass a referendum which secured a more stable tax-based funding. In 1987 the library was able to restore hours and services.
Eleven years later, the library had grown to house 85,000 items, including books, books on cassette, and musical CDs and cassettes. There are 22,000 cardholders. The library has embraced the technological age by having an on-line circulation system and catalog. Internet access and word processing stations are available for use by patrons. Even with all the changes one of the most popular programs is still the children’s story hour.
Inspired by the community of Meadville, Pennsylvania, the Meadville Public Library is an organization dedicated to providing an environment of life long learning, self-improvement, and self-expression.
The Meadville Public Library provides members of our community with materials in a multitude of formats that meet their educational, informational, and recreations needs. MPL responds to the needs of our users by providing a clean and inviting building, well-organized and up-to-date collections, friendly professional service and well trained staff.