Friends History

The current Adams County Library System is a private organization that had its beginning on November 15, 1944 when a group of concerned citizens met at the Adams County courthouse and established the Adams County Library Association. The association’s purpose was to establish the counties first public library “a desperate need, especially for young people and returning Veterans”.

On January 5, 1946  the Adams County Free Library first opened its doors to the public operating out of a leased house on Carlisle St.  Since this was to be a county-wide library a “bookmobile”, consisting of the Librarians car, would  be used to take books to the various parts of the county.

On April 6, 1949 the library association purchased, at auction, the old abandoned county jail (which is now the Gettysburg Borough Office on E. High St.) for $9,000. After many renovations and additions this building served as the main branch of the Adams County Library until 1992.

In the early fifties throughout the United States a movement called Friends of the Library began its program support to local libraries. An organization independent of the libraries themselves, still the American Library Association (ALA) recognized its value from the beginning.

Here in Adams County, Lillian Smoke, an experienced librarian, and Mary Wilson, the county librarian, described this new movement at the July 20, 1954 library board meeting. But it was not until 1957 that the library board appointed a committee to Investigate its benefits for the library here. Two years later, at the January 1959 annual library membership meeting, a motion to form a Friends oj the Library unit was introduced and passed.  Thus we were born. 

1959 – 1992

The purpose of this newly formed organization, as stated in its constitution, was;

“To Maintain an Association of People Interested in Library Development, to Focus Attention on Library Services and its Needs, and to Stimulate Gifts to the Library”.

From its inception to 1988 the Friends sponsored nearly 100 cultural events, gave 100,000 hours of volunteer time and contributed over $100,000 to the library.

These contributions were used for specific items such as painting the exterior of the library, helping to payoff mortgages, buying operational equipment, providing an elevator for staff, adding books to the collection, etc.

Specific fundraisers in the later years consisted of sponsoring the Children’s Plays, the annual Robert Brothers Circus, the Civic Chorus concerts, an annual plant sale at the Gettysburg College and a quilt raffle. Additional funds were raised through membership contributions. A contribution of $5 or more made you a Member. A contribution of $100 or more made you a Life Member of which there were two types, contributing and non-contributing.  As the name implies, contributing Life Members would make additional contributions annually while the non-contributing would not. (New Life Memberships were discontinued, an endowment option for contributions of $100 or more was established and the minimum donation for membership dues increased to $15.)

During this period many other changes took place.

  • The Adams County Free Library became the Adams County Public Library (1960)
  • The East Berlin Community Library joined the Adams County Library to form the Adams County Library System (1979)
  • The Friends registered as a Pennsylvania Non-Stock, Non-Profit Corporation, its official name becoming The Friends of the Adams County Library System, Inc. (1981)
  • The New Oxford Branch joins the Adams County Library System. (1983)
  • The main library moved to it’s current home, which was the old Post Office (1992) 

 1992 - 2005

The main library’s move into the old Post Office provided the Friends with a new fundraising opportunity; i.e. room for a Friends Store for the sale of used books, donated by Adams County residents, as well as other items.  This proved to be a most significant event.

In time the Friends were receiving more books than could be displayed and sold at the store. The solution was to hold two weekend garage sales, using the library garage, in an attempt to sell the remainder. The two weekends chosen were the two that coincided with the Gettysburg annual spring and fall antique shows.
These garage sales, however, had several drawbacks; there was still not enough room to display all of the books, there was very little nearby parking, and there was always the prospects of bad weather (either rainy, too hot or too cold) adversely effecting sales. Beginning in 2000 the two garage sales were abandoned in favor of a single Used Book Sale Bonanza to be held in August in the Gettysburg Middle School Cafeteria.  This facility was ideal; providing ample space for the display of books in an airconditioned environment with plenty of  parking just outside the door. In its first year the “Used Book Sale Bonanza” raised as much as the two weekend garage sales combined. By 2005 sales have more than tripled.

Up until 2002, the Friends had continued to sponsor the children’s plays and the annual circus; both of which used telephone solicitations to obtain contributions. In 2002 the Friends board decided to have only one annual appeal for individual contributions and that would be membership. Thus  the children’s play and the circus were discontinued as Friend’s fundraisers.

Today our only sources of income are our membership drive, the Friends Store, the annual Used Book Sale Bonanza and the recycling of used printer cartridges and cell phones. Despite the reduction in the number of income sources, however...

Over the past three years we have been able to increase our annual contributions to the library from $40,000 to $60,000.

These contributions are not for specific library needs but are a part of the libraries general operating budget.

In December of 2003 the Friends became an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Citizens for Better Libraries (PCBL), the state friends of the library organization. Joining solidified IRS tax exempt status, provided sales tax exemption for Friends purchases, simplified federal tax reporting and reduce our year-end financial costs.
By 2002 the ACLS had finally achieved stable funding in the form of a dedicated 0.5 mil county tax and a  contribution from the state that matches all local giving. Facing a 10% budget shortfall in 2003, however, the state reduced its contribution for libraries to 50% of its 2002 contribution resulting in a $400,000 loss for the ACLS. While the state contribution will increase to 73% for 2006, the concept of “matching” has not been restored. Therefore, the Friends are formally taking a more active role of working with individuals, and state library and friends organizations to see that adequate state funding is restored.