Burlington County Library 1956

Library Growth Continued

| Burlington County Library

In April of 1971, we officially designated Bordentown Library our second branch facility to better serve residents in that area of the county. Established by the Bordentown Library Association in 1841, the library ceased operation in the mid-1800s, but was pressed back into service in 1920. Two decades later, it occupied the Georgian style building where it remains today.

In May of 1971, we took another leap forward when we celebrated the grand opening of our brand-new, 33,000-square-foot Burlington County Library. Designed specifically for the five-acre site in Westampton that still serves as its home, the expansive building featured shelving for 150,000 books and 8,000 periodicals, and seating for 150 patrons. Visitors who toured the library on opening day were delighted to find an airy, modern facility with adult and children’s areas, a mezzanine, meeting rooms, quiet study rooms, a film service center and a New Jersey history room. There was also plenty of parking for residents who previously struggled to find spots near the former library in Mount Holly during active county business hours.

Less than a year later, in February of 1972, we welcomed the Pinelands Library to our growing list of library branches. Luckily, Medford Township had purchased a bus garage on Main Street in 1968 and the following year the Medford Library Association was formed to advocate and organize support for the new facility. The community rallied together and the garage was refurbished to serve the region’s swelling population. Just a few years later, in April of 1975, Evesham Library also became a branch. Established in 1963 by the township Friends group, the library was originally housed in a local school and made several moves over the years before finding a permanent home in the Evesham municipal building.

Another decade would pass before we welcomed another branch to the lineup; Pemberton Library officially joined the system in April of 1987. Residents in that area enjoyed access to library services at two locations, both managed by the Pemberton Community Library Association. The two facilities - one in Pemberton Township and other in the borough - merged in 2001 when a brand new, 18,000-square-foot library branch in Browns Mills opened its doors. That same year, Maple Shade Library, founded in 1953 and located in its township municipal building, was also designated a branch. And finally, in 2003, we made Riverton Library, founded in 1899 and housed in a lovely Victorian home since 1908, our final branch location.

Today, we’re pleased to note that Burlington County residents who want to visit a library to borrow materials, use public computers and attend our programs don’t have far to travel. In addition to operating our eight branches, our comprehensive library system continues to maintain close ties to seven independently-governed member libraries. Our oldest member library, the Library Company of Burlington, was an original library station. Our other member libraries are: Beverly Free Library, Crosswicks Library Company, Delanco Public Library, Florence Library, Riverside Library and Sally Stretch Keen Memorial Library.

Over the years, each conveniently located BCLS location, from the smallest to the largest, has developed its own “personality” to reflect the needs of its users. Additionally, all our beloved branches have been upgraded to keep up with the times. Notably, our flagship facility, the Burlington County Library, has been renovated twice. The library’s first major expansion was completed in 1992. That project included the construction of a new, more welcoming entrance and lobby, a larger children’s area and additional study rooms. Some 20 years later, another major renovation added 15,830 square feet to the then 54,000-square-foot building. Those improvements provided patrons with a more functional layout and comfortable seating throughout, including a roomy new entrance and lobby, a modern café, a storytelling room, Teen Zone, restrooms, meeting space, exhibit areas and a drive-up service window. The crown jewel of the project was the new 250-seat, state-of-the-art auditorium designed specifically for live performances, lectures and other library programs, a far cry from the bookmobile shelter that once served that same purpose.

Our other library branches saw improvements as well. Renovations to the Riverton Library, for example, created an open space floor plan in 1968, and a separate children’s area was added to the Pinelands Library in 1984. A construction grant from the State of New Jersey led to the expansion of the Bordentown Library, which underwent a lengthy and ambitious renovation project that was completed in 2007. That major undertaking more than tripled the building’s size, from 4,200 square feet to 14,700 square feet, giving the library a fresh look with spacious rooms, a computer lab, a large children’s section, an elevator and additional parking.

We’re proud of our long history serving Burlington County residents, and after 100 years of operation, we couldn’t be more pleased to report that we’re still growing, too! Later this year, we look forward to celebrating another milestone when Pinelands Library moves into an updated space in the new township municipal complex specially designed to meet the needs of the residents. We call that progress! And to think, it all began in one small room in Mount Holly; my, how we’ve grown!