The Media-Upper Providence Free Library (MUPFL) did not rise from the ashes like a mythological phoenix. It did, however, emerge from the rubble of the old structure at Front and Jackson streets in less than a year. The new library had its official ribbon cutting and celebratory grand opening July 16.
Construction of the Robert Linn-designed facility went smoothly. The budget, at under $4 million, included site preparation, the physical structure, as well as soft costs of packing and relocating contents to the firehouse’s second floor for temporary public use, and restoring them to new stacks.
The August 2015 demolition of the former library– which had been cobbled together over the years with old homes and frame additions– to the opening of a multi-use, state of the art library, took less than 11 months.
“It may seem this was done in the blink of an eye, but we’ve been at this for about 10 years,” said Robin Beaver, the current library board president, addressing a sizable crowd of library patrons for the opening. “It seems surreal to me. It has been many years and so many people who offered time, talent, creativity and energy.”
About a decade ago, the board was faced with the question of how the 1950’s-era library, serving Media Borough and Upper Providence Township, would meet 21st century needs.
Upper Providence resident Francis X. Shield was asked to join the discussion by those who knew his technology and financial background. Shield said various stakeholders took into consideration all aspects of operation and needs of the constituency. After looking at renovation, moving to a different location and building on the foundation, a decision was made to try to create a new structure on the same site.
Although Shields departed a few years later, the seed had been firmly planted. Board member, then president, then building committee chair, Marie Sciocchetti assumed the leadership. Her determination, energy, persistence and often cajoling led to a steady process from design through construction. Financing became a critical issue.
Glenn Miller, deputy Pennsylvania Department of Education secretary, attended the opening, and commented on a $500,000 Keystone Grant the library received, which proved a significant starting point for funding. Miller complimented the strength of the public/private partnership which took its form through grants, donations and funding opportunities such as commemorative paving bricks and “plaques for stacks.”
Media Council approved a $1 million grant in addition to the annual contribution in the borough’s budget for operations. Council also authorized borrowing of more than $1 million with an agreement for a schedule of repayment by the library. Upper Providence added special funding to its annual operations contribution. Sciocchetti earnestly noted all types of support will continue to be needed.
The library now boasts about 10,000 square feet of public space, and a 6,000 square-foot basement. At its core is the book collection, a robust presence of other mediums, and the well-used bank of computers and other technology. The ground floor has a generous children’s room, separate area for teens, and ample space for library staff. The second floor is purpose-built for community use.
Credit for the accomplishment of a modern facility that provides a range of services goes to a collaborative team of professionals, volunteers and public officials, including various members of Media and Upper Providence Councils, and those serving in state positions.
Representing these various stakeholders were Media Mayor Bob McMahon, Media Council President Brian Hall and Upper Providence Council President Joe Solomon. Mary Kate Jordan spoke for the Media Woman’s Club, the organization that established the first library in the borough in 1901.
The MUPFL may never see the one-time influx of patrons such as the hundreds on opening day, but it is expected to serve community needs and interests; attract support; and grow.