The Lower Merion Library Association, organized in 1935, administers six community public libraries: Ardmore, Bala-Cynwyd, Belmont Hills, Bryn Mawr (Ludington Memorial), Gladwyne, and Penn Wynne. Reorganized in 1961, the association has a board of three members from each of the six library boards and three appointed township commissioners. Each library has a board of directors made up of members of the community in which it is located. Each is supported by a combination of community funds, state support, and appropriations from the township. Twenty-one percent of the support comes from the community. With the reorganized association, one library card became the passport to the holdings of all six libraries. Sixty-three percent of residents are registered borrowers.
The Lower Merion Library Association has a processing center where all of the book ordering, cataloguing, and preparation for circulation is done. Each library strives to have a comprehensive collection, and to develop at least one specific subject strength.
The Ardmore Free Library, founded in 1899, occupies a building erected in 1923 in memory of Mrs. Charles H. (Ethel Saltus) Ludington. Its specialties are black history, literature, biography, sewing patterns, and puzzles.
The Bala-Cynwyd Memorial Library, founded in 1915, was located in a building erected by public subscription to honor World War I heroes until it was moved in 1974 to its present location on Old Lancaster Road in a new building cooperatively conceived by the township and the school district to share the children's library and other facilities and to serve as a community library, reference center, and school. Its specialties are music, economics, Jewish studies, and historical children's literature.
Bryn Mawr's Ludington Public Library, the main library and reference center of the township, began in 1916 with twenty books and two dozen chairs. It occupies a building erected in 1926 as a memorial to Mrs. Charles Ludington, a special friend of libraries. A children's wing was added in 1954, and a major addition built in 1967. In 1980 it had a collection of eighty-seven thousand books, and its circulation was over a quarter of a million. Art, gardening, research materials, foreign language books, finance, children's folklore, and poetry are its specialties.
Penn Wynne Library started in a small building in Overbrook Park in 1929. Community support made a larger building possible, and a wing added in 1960 was the gift of the Decker Foundation. Specialties are plays, women's studies, and Judaica.
Gladwyne Free Library, founded by Maude Butler Bell in 1930, occupies the Gladwyne Community Hall, built in 1921 at 362 Righters Mill Road. The library added a wing during 1975 and 1976, and a community meeting room in 1980. Its Pennsylvania Room houses an extensive collection of rare state and local monographs contributed in 1964 in memory of Mabel Stewart Ludlum by her husband, Dr. Seymour De Witt Ludlum, whose neuropsychiatric "Gladwyne Colony" is described in the Gladwyne portion of this chapter. The library's specialties are local, state, and United States history. Through benefits such as house tours and garden sales, the Gladwyne Library League helps to support the library. The league, organized with twenty members by Mrs. Evelyn McCoy in 1963, had five hundred members in 1981.
Belmont Hills Public Library, organized in 1941 as the Bird Memorial Library, occupies a building erected in 1969 on Mary Waters Ford Road and specializes in children's materials and educational games.
In all six libraries citizens contribute thousands of hours of volunteer work each year. Their efforts enable the libraries to provide increased services to the community without a proportionate increase in costs.