Kutztown Community Library celebrated its 70th anniversary with an Open House Nov. 12, encouraging community members, legislators and municipal officials to explore all that the library offers.

Sen. Judy Schwank and Rep. Gary Day presented citations on behalf of the House and Senate recognizing the library’s anniversary.

“You are vital to the community,” said Schwank during the presentation conducted in front of a large quilt created by the library’s Community Threads group. “This is the place to be in Kutztown.”

Schwank said the citation is to congratulate the library and community on the library’s anniversary. “Thank you so much for what you do.”

Day talked about the knowledge you can gain through the library.

“If you can read, you can learn. Libraries help people,” said Day.

Of the many programs offered, one in particular stands out to him, “1,000 books by kindergarten, what a great program.”

Day said the citation is a salute to all who are involved with the library.

“You do a great job here. Keep it up,” said Day. “Tell your friends to come here to the library and be part of this great library here. Kutztown is a special place.”

“Community libraries are centers for people to convene, get more education on any topic that they desire, to bring their children to help encourage them to read,” said Schwank. “There are so many community activities, arts and crafts, and the ability to work with other people. They are community centers, not just repositories for books.”

Of the Berks County libraries, Schwank said Kutztown’s library is one of the oldest.

“Well established and obviously by looking at the facilities and talking with the staff, this is proven vital to the entire Kutztown community and to the townships that surround Kutztown as well,” said Schwank.

Prior to becoming a state library, founders Louisa and John Gonser established the library in their home on one of three floors. John died in 1927, leaving shares, properties and money to Louisa. After her death in 1941, her will declared that her house be used as a library and a YMCA, creating trust funds for both organizations from proceeds raised from selling her possessions. In 1949, the Business & Professional Woman’s Club gained permission from Borough Council to reopen the library as the Reading Room, according to a history provided by the library.

As it grew, the library moved: in 1958 to Old Town Hall on North Whiteoak Street, in 1989 to the lower level of the Borough Municipal Building and in 1998 to its current location at 70 Bieber Alley.

Today, Kutztown Community Library serves a population of nearly 19,000 people and provides a vast number of weekly and monthly programs for the community.

“I think it shows how far we’ve come in 70 years from a house to this building and how much has changed in that time, like technology and how much bigger the library is than just books,” said Cathrine Ruhf, Kutztown Community Library Board of Trustees President. “It started out as a book room and now it’s this humongous library that does so many different things and this is a good chance to celebrate those things.”

“I’m really excited that through Louisa Gonser’s donation we were able to create this wonderful library that so many people in the community enjoy and appreciate,” said Library Director Janet Yost who is excited to be celebrating the library’s 70th anniversary. “We’re so pleased so many could come.”

Yost said the Open House celebrate their 70th anniversary and showcases all that the library offers at stations set up throughout the building.

At the door, visitors received a passport to visit stations set up in the library to learn about youth programs, passport services, pop up libraries, adult programs, technology and circulation such as books and movies.

Taylor Kutz, youth librarian, talked about youth programs at one of the stations.

“The library is so important to children because it is a place to come and get prepared to go to school and to interact with other kids,” said Kutz, noting there are a range of programs offered for preschoolers to teens. “It’s such a huge community hub all around. It’s just a great place to come to.”

Former library director Patt McCloskey, Kutztown, came out to the Open House with her husband Kevin McCloskey, author of the Toon Books Giggle and Learn series with the latest book release titled “Ants Don’t Wear Pants!”

Patt was hired as director about a month prior to the library moving from Borough Hall to its current location on Bieber Alley.

“It was amazing because we just told the community we needed people to come and box books and dozens and dozens of people showed up… They had 14,000 books boxed within a couple of hours,” said Patt. “Everybody loves a library and so everybody comes together when the library needs something and it’s good.”

Kutztown artist and author Lisa Schnell said her daughters come to the library every day after school to do their school work and check out books.

“I think it’s great that they’re celebrating their anniversary and celebrating books and people who love books and write books,” said Schnell, who has exhibited both her art and books in the library. “In this community especially there is such a need for a strong library presence.”

For more information about library programs and upcoming events, visit kutztownlibrary.org.

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