History & general info.
As early as 1919, grocer Elliott J. Gutelius began to collect small amounts of money from members of the community to build a public library for the Borough of Mifflinburg. In the meantime, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur and Ethel Koons offered several shelves in their Chestnut Street store for around 200 donated books.
Fifteen years later, Mr. Gutelius, then 83 years old, was able to use the $60 that he had collected over the years to purchase the “Literary Digest Encyclopedia.” With the help of Miss Jessie C. Herr and other borough residents, the Mifflinburg Public Library opened on Nov. 24, 1934, in the school board’s room on the second floor at the front of the Mifflinburg Borough building at 333 Chestnut Street. Mr. Donald L. Rexrode and his students from Mifflinburg High School constructed the shelving.
Mrs. Charlotte Steans served as librarian the first year, and more than 260 people subscribed as charter members of the library association. After Harry B. Young petitioned the borough council in 1936, the library was moved to a 5-room apartment on the east side of the second floor of the borough building. By the time the library relocated to its current location on Market Street ten years later, the holdings had increased to about 5,000 titles.
The neo-Georgian building at 500 Market Street where the library is now located was constructed in 1925 as the Herr family’s private residence. Along with an endowment, the yellow-brick house was willed to the Mifflinburg community by Miss Jane I. Herr in April 1944 to serve as a public library. The “Jane I. and Annetta M. Herr Memorial Library,” which opened its doors on Oct. 18, 1944, is named for Jane’s and Jessie’s paternal grandmother, Jane Irwin Herr, and their mother, Annetta M. Young Herr.
Renovations and additions to the first floor of the Herr Memorial Library in 1999, paid for in part by a generous bequest from Joseph Gutelius Foster, included a small multi-purpose room that currently is used as a children’s craft room, a large room for the children’s materials collection, a new circulation desk, a public computer room, and a public restroom.
The second floor of the original building was renovated and opened in 2001, adding offices and staff work areas as well as the public Robert K. Strunk Room, which houses the library’s “Pennsylvania Collection.”
Named after a former Herr Memorial Library director, the Robert K. Strunk Room serves as a repository for original Union County family histories, historical articles, pamphlets, photographs, yearbooks, and bound volumes of local, regional, state, and Civil War history. Residents and visitors have used materials from the Pennsylvania Collection to research personal histories as well as to find background information for historical books. The collection includes materials about landmarks, schools, churches, and buggy manufacturing, as well as histories of old family names such as Aurand, Boop, Reish, and Pawling.
Herr Memorial Library converted to an Internet-based circulation system for checkout and management in March 2002 to improve and enhance service to library users. The new system made the old card catalog obsolete and allowed better management of and easier access to the materials at the other two Union County public libraries.
In 2004, the library began an ambitious project to record on DVDs and in corresponding booklets interviews with some of the oldest members of the community in an effort to preserve an important part of the history of the Mifflinburg area. In August that year, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission awarded a $4,650 Local History grant to the Herr Memorial Library for a special oral history project, “Memories of Mifflinburg: Changes After World War II.”
Seven “Memories of Mifflinburg” oral histories have been completed with funds from that grant and from contributions by members of the community. They feature interviews with the following Mifflinburg residents: Marie Purnell Musser, Mary Eleanor Koons, Hannah Pauline Rotering, William R. Ruhl, William K. Kerstetter, Helen Jean Sterling Snook, and Helen Schnure Harter. All oral history materials are available for public viewing in the library’s Pennsylvania Room.