The Warren Library Association was founded in 1873 as a free public library under the Laws of Pennsylvania and celebrated its 145th anniversary in 2018. Through the generous contribution of Thomas Struthers in 1882, the library was able to locate in the Struthers Library Theatre building, where it provided service to the citizens of Warren for 33 years…In 1916, the library moved to its present location at 205 Market Street.

In 1962, Warren was designated as the district library center for 17 public libraries in five counties in northwestern PA and has been appointed by the County Commissioners as the county library for Warren County. A twelve person Board of Directors appointed by the County Commissioners, the City of Warren, and representatives elected from the Association governs the Warren Library Association.

Excerpts from library history by Chase Putnam
published in the October 2004 “Fulcrum”

An outline history of the Warren Library Association compiled in 1993 cites, in closing, the nurturing contributions of those who have sustained this remarkable institution from its founding to the present day.  Firm and consistent public support is, of course, an essential ingredient, but no less important is the contribution of those who have served as library staff members; during the last quarter-century — a period of enormous and sometimes difficult change—they have served honorably and well, as events will prove.

Early in 1980 the Board had begun to discuss solutions to growing problems with space and accessibility…June 1980 brought some happy news for the planners: Joseph DeFrees offered the property next door to the south as a site for building expansion.  The Windsor-Newmaker house, built in 1887, occupied the space. With the assurance of two unrestricted bequests for renovation and expansion, the Board began arrangements for a sizeable addition on the adjacent lot…More than 1700 individuals contributed to the effort…The groundbreaking ceremony was held on July 19, 1984.

A grand opening and re-dedication on November 10, 1985, presented to the public an expanded library with nearly twice the space previously available.  Major features in the addition were the new children’s room, the William Allen Slater Room for multi-purpose use, new public restrooms and a new director’s office, and a new reference room with a separate temperature– and humidity-controlled space for special collections.  The Wetmore Gallery was renovated, the checkout desk redesigned, and new staff offices were created in the first-floor space below the reference room.

Although it would seem as though the Board had time for little else in the mid-eighties, members were occupied with a good many other issues…Certainly the most distressing problem facing the Association as the 1990’s began was the announcement in Harrisburg of state aid cuts.  As a result, in 1991 a community-wide endowment campaign was begun by the Board of Control.  Cutbacks and reduction of expenses in the early ‘90s became unpleasant necessities, only to be echoed repeatedly later in that decade and the one that followed…In spite of this discouraging trend, our local library and others move on with great energy and hope for a brighter future as library patrons across the state make their wishes known.

In April 1997 Ann Lesser retired as Director after 41 years of service to Warren Public Library.  She was replaced the next month by Stephen Thomas…the Board, staff and supporters were pleased to celebrate the library’s 125th anniversary at the May 1998 annual meeting of the Association.

Early in 2000 Patty Sherbondy, who joined the staff in 1990 as reference librarian, was appointed Acting Director upon the resignation of Stephen Thomas…and in October 2000 was appointed Director.  In the years since, the old bugaboo, government funding, has again been a serious and vexing matter; but even after the resulting retrenchment and some temporary changes, the Board and staff have adjusted with aplomb and extraordinary good sense to a frustrating situation.   As a sign of its vitality, and of its awareness of what a good library should offer, the Association supported a much-needed renovation and refurbishment project in 2001 and 2002…A welcoming place indeed, just as a public library should be.

We have already saluted those whose foresight and dedication have made the Warren Public Library what it is—one of the most respected and responsive public libraries in the Commonwealth.  Their vision continues today among those who are charged with guiding us into the future.  And to one who has known and loved the library lifelong—from the story-hour days of the early 1940s to my present work with the historical collections—it is a sustaining force: the world of books.

october 2019 update by beverly leonhardt, reference librarian

The intervening years to present have brought additional changes, mostly in arrangement and staff.  In 2016, Patty Sherbondy retired as Director after 29 years of service.  She is replaced by Kelli Knapp, who joined the staff at Warren Public Library in 2010 as a circulation clerk. The library is currently engaged in planning for updates and upgrades to our connectivity infrastructure, our Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility, and an area dedicated to our teens.  These changes are intended to benefit our community in a variety of ways.  Warren Public Library recently launched a new logo and tagline to better represent our goals in serving our community.