The Middletown Free Library, located in Lima, is a busy place these days — on average, over 400 people per day walk through our doors.
Since its inception in 1956, the MFL has expanded from a small book bus to a full-sized library, carrying books, CDs, DVDs, MP3 players, and a large selection of current magazines. The library also acts as a great community center, offering many programs for patrons of all ages.
Board of Trustees:
President Gary Grove,
Vice President Robert Fyfe,
Secretary Louise Jones,
Treasurer Justin Nepo,
Trustees Andrew Miller, Genny Hamilton, and David E. Irving
The Board meets the third Thursday of every month at 7 PM.
Below is a fine detailed account of the Middletown Free Library’s history, by Henry S. Pearson, local historian.
In April, 1956, a group of interested residents met at the home of Mrs. Philip Sanders, West Forge Road, Glen Mills, and organized the Middletown Free Library Association. During the next few months, several thousand books were collected from individuals and organizations in the Township as well as other libraries in the County. The books were catalogued by volunteers working in the homes of Mrs. Truman Read and Mrs. Sanders.
Next, a fund drive was launched and approximately $1,300 was raised by individuals; township organizations and businesses contributed about $300. A school bus, purchased from Elwyn Institute for $400, was converted into a bookmobile by Truman Read, Dr. Robert F. Engle and other volunteers, with contributions of materials from many businesses; in August, 1956, the bookmobile, staffed by volunteer librarians and drivers and carrying 1,700 books, made its first run and operated on a weekday schedule for the rest of the summer.
In the fall of 1956, Nazz Mariani made available to the
Library a room in his building on Baltimore Pike; this space made it possible for the balance of the books to be taken from garages, cellars, and dining rooms in the Township and consolidated for storage purposes. During the following year, the effort was concentrated on improving service and additional books were catalogued by Mrs. Sidney Miller and Mrs. John Sears.
In May, 1957, the Association was incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In that year, the Middletown Board of Supervisors contributed $500 toward the Library’s support. The Library Board continued to seek means to improve service for the community and in 1958 asked, on a referendum, for one-half mil tax support; this was defeated by a vote of 919-869, just 50 votes short. Though shaken, the group refused to be defeated and continued to explore ways to improve Library services.
A study of a possible merger with Media Library was considered, as was the possibility of a Central Delaware County Joint Library, to consist of Edgmont, Middletown, Upper Providence and Media. This did not work out, but the Edgmont Board of
Supervisors contributed $250 to the Middletown Library and bookmobile service was begun in that Township. Mrs. C. M. Ratliff, Jr., was named as Edgmont’s representative to the Board. Walter G. Emmott, Chairman of the Middletown Board of Supervisors, also served as a Library Board member.
The Board next considered a permanent building for the Library. The Weathers brothers offered to sell a house on Pennell Road, just north of Baltimore Pike, for $6,000. They also offered to take a 100 percent mortgage on the property. So in June 1959, a fund drive was launched and $4,500 was given by interested citizens. This money was used towards the renovation of this building, by volunteers, in accordance with the Middletown Township Code.
In November of 1960, a one mil tax for the Library was passed by the Township. In 1963, an addition of 1,500 square feet was made at a cost of $16,000. A fund drive provided $9,000 and a bank loan furnished the remainder of the money. This loan was paid in full by 1971. A second addition of 3,000 square feet was made in 1973 at a cost of $84,000. Thirty-five thousand dollars of this sum was obtained by a fund drive.
Since then, the library has continued to expand and grow due to a dedicated staff and devoted volunteers. The Library’s circulation in June, 2009 was 11,154, an all time library high.
Henry S. Pearson, a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of Pennsylvania, was born in Media on September 25, 1916. A 1934 graduate of Media High School, he joined the General Electric Company in 1941 as an electrician. He became Plant Electrical Engineer for the Switchgear Division in 1957 and retired on January 1, 1977.
Henry spent three years in World War II with the 71st Naval Construction Battalion in the South Pacific. He married Dorris Sill in 1946; Debbie and Dorris are their daughters who have given their parents many grandchildren.
Henry’s first edition of his fine History of Middletown Township was published in 1985 and limited to 2,000 copies.
While Henry did not profess to be an historian or a writer, he said that it was in his work as a Professional Engineer—in the writing of projects, meeting many people, listening to their words and asking pertinent questions—that made the writing of his book a natural. All of Henry’s material is available in the Library.