Library History

The Lancaster Public Library began serving the lifelong learning needs of the residents of Lancaster City and County on December 4, 1759 when the Lancaster Library Company was formed with 54 members at the home of Benjamin Price at 37 North Queen Street. Each member initially paid three guineas plus seven shillings six pence annually. Robert Fulton and Declaration of Independence signer George Ross were charter members and Benjamin Franklin complimented the Lancaster Library Company for having four more members than his Philadelphia Library Company (founded in 1731).

In 1763 the Library was reincorporated, with 77 members, as the Juliana Library Company of Lancaster in honor of Lady Juliana Penn, daughter-in-law of William Penn, the Library’s patron. During the Revolutionary war the Library served as the Treasury of Pennsylvania and offices of Treasurer David Rittenhouse. For the next hundred years the Library occupied several sites (including the county courthouse) and in 1898 moved into the donated home of A. Herr Smith at 125 North Duke Street.

In 1903 the Library merged with Mechanics Society Library and reorganized into the Lancaster Free Library. In 1933 the Lancaster Free Public Library was incorporated. By 1938, the library had a bookmobile, five branches (Columbia, Elizabethtown, Lititz, Marietta, and New Holland), and 42 deposit stations throughout county. The library added additional branches in Leola, Manheim Township, and Mountville. Eventually, all of the branches became independent libraries except for Leola and Mountville. In 1954 a new Lancaster Free Public Library was built on the site of A. Herr Smith Library on 125 N. Duke Street.

In 1963 the Library System of Lancaster County (LSLC) was formed under auspices of Lancaster Free Public Library. In 1969 the County Commissioners designated the Lancaster Free Public Library as the County Library and the State named it as District Library Center. The name was thus changed to Lancaster County Library (LCL). In 1986 the LCL board split into separate LCL and LSLC boards. In 1997 County Commissioners designated LSLC as their agent to provide public library services to County residents. In 2000 the library staff was split between LCL and LSLC. In 2003 the LSLC staff moved out of the LCL.

In 2006 the Lancaster County Library changed its name to the Lancaster Public Library (LPL). The LPL’s three branches in Lancaster, Leola, and Mountville currently serve as the free public libraries for approximately 207,000 Lancaster County residents in fourteen municipalities: Conestoga Township, East Hempfield Township, East Lampeter Township, East Petersburg Borough, Lancaster City, Lancaster Township, Manor Township, Millersville Borough, Mountville Borough, Pequea Township, Upper Leacock Township, West Earl Township, West Hempfield Township, and West Lampeter Township.