Mission & History

Photo credit: Margaret J. O’Connell Collection, courtesy St. James Church.

Our Mission

The Pennington Public Library celebrates reading in all formats and provides a warm, welcoming place where community members of all ages can interact, engage in public discourse, and pursue lifelong learning for personal growth and entertainment. Our library offers a variety of quality programming, a caring, responsive and knowledgeable staff, dedicated volunteers, and a comfortable physical environment. We are especially committed to honoring Pennington’s past while building its future.

Our History

Pennington Public Library has been a community institution since its founding in 1876. On April 15th of that year, a newly-formed Ladies’ Library Association of Pennington opened a small room on the second floor of the Irving House at the corner of North Main Street and East Delaware Avenue. (Built in 1790, the Irving House was replaced by the First National Bank building–currently Sun Bank–in 1926.)

At the time of its formation, the Library charged $1.00 per year for membership. Non-members could borrow a book for ten cents per week – but only one book per week, as the collection was extremely limited! The library was open for one hour on Saturday afternoons and each member was expected to take her turn in charge of the collection. Occasionally, tea was served. (Source: Pennington Profile by Margaret J. O’Connell.)

Today, volunteers still staff the circulation desk, and coffee and tea are still available courtesy of the Friends of the Library-funded beverage station. But a lot of other things have changed!

The Pennington Public Library Is a Staple of the Community

Historic Highlights

  • 1929: The Library moves from Irving House into the red brick Borough Hall Building on North Main Street, which also houses the town jail and the Fire Company.
  • 1954: Mayor Lawrence Shear appoints its first Library Board of Trustees. Circulation is 3,032 annually.
  • 1963: During the state of New Jersey’s 300th Anniversary, Pennington celebrations result in a gift of $700 being donated to the Pennington Library, “which is truly a community institution.” (O’Connell)
  • Mid-1960s: Pennington Borough purchases and renovates the old Bell Telephone Building at South Main Street and Laning Avenue. The Library quickly outgrows this space.
  • 1973: The Library relocates to 24 North Main Street, next to its old home at the Fire Station.
  • 1995: The Library moves into its current space at 30 North Main Street, which also houses Borough Hall and the Police Station.
  • 2012: The Library Board of Trustees introduces plans for renovations and a new website according to the findings of its Five-Year Strategic Plan initiative.

Borough Fire sign

Today

The Library’s current collection of books, DVDs, newspapers and magazines exceeds 34,000 titles including e-books; (24,400 titles, excluding e-books). Our circulation is over 44,000 titles checked-out annually. But we are proud to be so much more than a source of reading material!

The Library also provides access to the world through free WiFi, offers frequent programs for education and entertainment, and builds a strong community by sharing information from local organizations. We truly are where people and ideas interact!