Heritage Library marking two anniversaries

LOOKING BACK — Director Mary Duranti, Board member Kathy Farner and library employees Becky Skirpan, 16 years, and Linda Munger, 23 years, look over photos and articles about the Heritage Public Library history as the group prepares to observe the library’s 110th anniversary. -- Summer Wallace-Minger

MCDONALD — The Heritage Library will be celebrate two anniversaries this year: the library’s 110th and the 20th year in the current location.

Director Mary Duranti said the library will mark the occasions, and details will be announced as they become available. There also will likely be a display celebrating the library’s history.

The library has evolved from a “reading room” at Wolk’s clothing store in 1907 — the McDonald Woman’s Club opened the McDonald Free Library with a set of 50 volumes provided by the Pennsylvania State Library and including “Through the Looking Glass,” “Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” — to a multimedia center of the community, forming partnerships with local businesses and schools.

The Women’s Club were the curators of the library for the first 15 years, during which the library moved first to Fred Charlier’s shoe store, then to Roger’s livery stable on Barr Street, where the library reached 1,600 books, including “Bambi,” “Peter Pan,” “The Bobbsey Twins,” “Little Women” and works by Rudyard Kipling, Henry David Thoreau, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Burns and Robert Browning.

By 1923, the McDonald Free Library Association — with 425 members — was formed with W.L. Moore acting as president. The library moved to the former McDonald Municipal Building, where it remained for nearly 75 years. However, a lack of space and the building’s dilapidated state required new quarters by 1987.

Over the next 10 years, library board members and volunteers worked toward the funding and construction of a dedicated library under the leadership of Trustee Stacy Dunks Zeno. Zeno and nearly 80 volunteers moved 18,000 books to the library’s current location at 52 Fourth St., adjacent to Heritage Park. The building cost $450,000 to construct.

It was then that the library went through yet another change — a change of name. The library’s name was changed from the McDonald Free Library to the Heritage Public Library, a better reflection of the community it serves, including all of the Fort Cherry School District, McDonald and Midway boroughs and Mount Pleasant, Robinson and Cecil townships.

“It reflects the larger area that we serve,” Duranti said. “It’s more representative of the larger community. I want to emphasis that we serve all of these communities.”

The library has taken strides forward since that time, expanding its collection to more than 25,000 items, including movies and albums. As the community’s needs have changed, the library has transformed.

Although the library’s main trade is still in books, it has offerings for children and teenagers and has developed a relationship with Fort Cherry High School’s Entrepreneurship Program. The students, who also run a store at the school, produce Fort Cherry-branded items and sell them at the library at the Ranger Emporium.

“They sell some of these items here, and they have a clothing line as well,” Duranti said. “All the proceeds go back to the class.”

The library also recently renovated its middle room to be more teenager friendly with the help of Lowe’s of Robinson. Duranti said a patron, who worked at the store, stopped for a library event and mentioned that the store did volunteer projects and might be interested in working with the library.

“She went and asked her manager, and they gave us a call the next day and wanted to come and work with us,” Duranti said.

With the help of Lowe’s and high school volunteers, the room was painted and furnished, including a mural depicting books popular with and about teenagers. The library also provides outlets for personal devices, snacks and wifi.

Duranti said sparking a life-long love of reading and books begins at an early age, and the library has several programs for toddler-aged children, including story time. The library will hold story time sessions from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Fridays Feb. 3 through Feb. 24 in the library’s community room. Home Depot donated carpet samples for “story time squares” for seating. The library also hosts family fun nights, featuring Play K Kits, which are meant to encourage kindergarten readiness. The kits were developed by the Pennsylvania State Library Association. The kits incorporate play and reading, each one developing a different skill, such as counting, rhyming or identifying colors or objects. Duranti added that parents are encouraged to explore the kits with their children.

Duranti was enthusiastic about the library’s newest program: “block parties.” Through a state library association grant, the library was able to purchase several types of building blocks and play sets, including people, animals and Lincoln Logs.

“Children learn as they play,” she said.

The library also will host a free play time “Block Party” for preschool-aged children from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 27.

The library also has a community room, which is often used for community events, including health fairs and blood drives. It also is the location of the Robinson Township Board of Supervisors meeting, Duranti said.

It’s also available to the public for rental at $50 and includes the large multipurpose room with a separate entrance from the parking lot and a kitchen.

The organization offers a variety of services, including computer lab assistance; wifi; print, copy, fax and scan services; and a memorial book program. Programs for adults and children include family fun nights, Fit Club exercise group, AARP tax assistance, book discussion groups, summer reading program and Millie the Tail-Wagging Tutor, where children can read to Millie, building confidence in their abilities.

The library will be sending out its fundraising letters soon — state and local funds only cover approximately 50 percent of the organization’s budget. The library is dependent on donations and fundraisers to cover the other half of its operating expenses.

The tight budget has required some creativity on Duranti’s and employees’ part, and they have reached out to local businesses to sponsor particular events, such as the library’s Christmas pajama story time, which was sponsored by Imperial Land Corp., attorney Lorretta B. Kendall and Louis T. Ursitz Heating and Air Conditioning. Duranti said the library is interested in pursuing additional business partnerships and sponsorships.

The library participates in the Washington County Community Foundation Gives day, which provides matching funds for donations received on a particular day, and will be hosting a Breakfast With the Bunny in April. Duranti added the library is looking for a sponsor for the event.

Heritage Library is open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The library is located at 52 Fourth St.

For information, visit www.washlibs.org/heritage, contact heritagelibrary@comcast.net or call (724) 926-8400. Visit the website for e-book services.