WVPL History

The Ambler Public Library was established in 1923 on North Main Street by the Colony Club of Ambler.  It served Ambler Borough and Lower Gwynedd, Upper Dublin, Whitemarsh and Whitpain Townships.  In 1934 it moved to the corner of Ridge and Race Streets.  

In the 1950’s, as farm land was transformed into suburban developments, there was an evolution of school districts. Ambler, Lower Gwynedd and Whitpain were grouped together to form the Wissahickon School District, and Upper Dublin created its own school district.  Later in the 1960’s, Upper Dublin created its own library.

In January 1960, for $10,000, two lots on Race Street were used to build a 3,680 square foot building in Ambler.  The new Ambler Public Library opened on September 11, 1961.

In 1966, the Women’s Club of Whitpain approached the Ambler Public Library, the Montgomery County Library and the Norristown Public Library about establishing a library in Whitpain. The Library of Whitpain opened in two rent free rooms above a beauty parlor on January 18, 1967. It was located on the corner of Routes 202 and 73, now known as the Village of Center Square. 

The Wissahickon School District had been supporting the Ambler Public Library for years, and in 1968 it started supporting the Library of Whitpain as well.  The school district offered the Library of Whitpain a room on the second floor of the 1895 School Building at the corner of Skippack Pike and School Road in Blue Bell, what is today known as the Wissahickon Valley Historical Society.  The library happily moved into the larger quarters.  

In 1969, the Wissahickon School District suggested merging the two libraries. The Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library (now merged) agreed to the plan. To support the library, the Wissahickon School Board levied a one-mill library tax in 1970, and the library system was named the Wissahickon Valley Public Library.

Rita Berk became the first professional librarian to be hired in 1973.  

In 1981, the Whitpain Branch moved into two classrooms in Shady Grove Elementary School. Then in 1987, it moved back to the original building in Center Square where it now had both the first and second floors.   

The two small library buildings were circulating hundreds of thousands of items and the buildings became inadequate, so the Wissahickon Valley Public Library Board began a capital fund drive to build a new library.  A group of community members dedicated to establishing a permanent home for the library coalesced into the Friends of the Whitpain Library.  

A 22,500 square foot roller skating rink located on Skippack Pike in Blue Bell became available for purchase.  However the major hurdle was the cost of acquiring, renovating, and furnishing the building, estimated at $3,000,000.  After the library board raised $500,000, they created a funding plan agreed to by the school district and the 3 local municipalities.  The Wissahickon School Board agreed to issue bonds to underwrite 84% of the project, while the library board agreed to fund the remaining 16% from private donations. 

Due to the building’s larger size, it became the Main Library and Ambler, the Branch library. The newly renovated building opened on May 7, 1994 at 650 Skippack Pike and the Wissahickon Valley Public Library had a permanent home at last.

The work of hundreds of people over many years had culminated in a beautiful facility of which all could be proud.  

Work Cited
Roberts, Dave. “Wissahickon Valley Public Library.” Whitpain Township A Tricentennial Reflection 1701-2001, Ed. Wayne A. Huss. Philadelphia: National Publishing Company, 2002. 267-271. Print.