With the cutting of a ribbon on Saturday, Nov. 11, the doors officially opened on a once-in-a-generation complete reimagination and overhaul of the Annville Free Library at 216 E. Main St., an address now even moreso deep in the heart of the Annville community.

The expansion of the library eastward into an adjacent duplex and a new, spacious and sunny welcome area and central corridor took roughly seven years, starting at the January 2017 inaugural meeting of the then-named “Vision 2020” capital campaign committee.

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Grand opening ceremony held Saturday morning

Library board president Marty Brandt, who conducted the grand opening ceremony Saturday morning alongside his capital campaign co-chair, treasurer Frank Yeager, presented a clear visual example for the combining of forces, the tapping of “liquidity” offered variously by private philanthropists, corporate donors, and grant programs.”

“We thought four years was enough,” said Brandt. “That seems forever. But we persevered. We kept our vision. We kept our enthusiasm. And we kept our interest. And along with the encouragement from Bill and Carol Christ, we got here today. So I want to do a little something.”

As he filled up a vase, Brandt told the room full of well-wishers he was representing the coming together of the community’s various streams of support, and thanked those in attendance for making the project happen.

As he stopped just shy of filling the vase to its marked fill line — noting that the fundraising wasn’t quite done yet, with $300,000 left to raise to finish off the master plan — he placed a bouquet of flowers into the vase.

As he finished filling the vase, board president Marty Brandt said that the end result of the community leadership and contributions was that they were “able to build something beautiful,” placing a bouquet into the vase. Brandt then presented the flowers to honorary campaign co-chair Carol Christ, who along with husband Bill Christ were not only critical early supporters of the campaign but would go on to donate a double-digit percentage of the overall project budget to make the expansion possible.

Through those donations and contributions, “we were able to build something beautiful,” said Brandt. “So we know we didn’t need everything, but we got something done marvelous.”

Brandt then presented to the flowers to Bill and Carol Christ, who were early and prolific contributors to the fundraising effort – and it turned out, they weren’t done yet.

Bill Christ said that the project turned out to be a phenomenal, beautiful outcome, and in a sendoff salute to the library staff he said that they can now consider the question of their future.

“The future ain’t what it used to be,” joked Christ, a former Hershey executive, as he quoted Yogi Berra and noted that as the library’s customer base was changing constantly. Along with the impact of AI, as Christ noted elsewhere in his speech, the library would need to continue adapting to community needs.

Capital campaign honorary co-chair Bill Christ speaks on behalf of himself and wife Carol Christ during the grand opening ceremony of Annville Free Library’s $4.5 million expansion and renovation project. Christ pledged an additional $150,000 from him and his wife in matching grants if the community can help finish off the remaining $300,000 left to be raised to realize the complete master plan.

Christ then pledged that he and Carol would contribute up to $150,000 in matching funds to help bring the project to completion, finishing off this milestone makeover of Annville’s library, and he encouraged those in attendance to open up their wallets to be a part of that final sprint. Those interested in donating can find donation options and more information about the project at WritingTheNextChapter.com.

Following an overview of the project history and vision by Brandt, Yeager then oversaw the official ribbon cutting of this extraordinary expansion and renovation project, which was designed by Carol Hickey of Hickey Architects and implemented by Arthur Funk & Sons Inc. and Speedwell Construction. (The project broke ground in June 2022, and LebTown stopped by at a couple points along the way.)

Brandt said afterwards that he and the entire library community were excited to the point of endorphins, “making us all feel very good about what we’ve accomplished for our community with this expanded library.”

The library is seeing people who hadn’t been in for years and new patrons who had heard about the project and want to see what’s going on, Brandt said.

Asked about his favorite parts of the project, Yeager said that he liked the new entrance, but “what we did for that annex building was just amazing.” The duplex next-door was transformed into private library office space at the top and a new community room on the ground floor, a “much needed community space,” said Yeager.

Yeager said that in order to sell this project, they knew that libraries had to be different than they used to be.

“No longer is it so much about the books and the DVDs and all that sort of thing, it’s still an important part, but libraries need to be part of the community,” said Yeager, who noted that Annville previously didn’t have any space for community activities and the space is already being used everyday.

The patron reaction has been fabulous so far, he said.

“This community has been amazing.”

Library director Dee Neff said it was a “pretty unbelievable” feeling to arrive at the milestone day seven years after the library first embarked on the ambitious expansion effort thanks to the support of the entire community coming together to make the project happen.

A few of the librarians at Annville Free Library take a moment out of the grand opening ceremony to pose for a LebTown photo. From left to right, circulation manager Maria Howe, library director Dee Neff, and youth services coordinator Cassie Conlin.

“Because this wasn’t just one committee, it was a lot of people, a lot of volunteers,” she said. “People in the community, and that is something true for this library that’s true for this library no matter what stage it was in or what year it was, if it needed something the community came together and made sure it happened. And that’s what happened here, too.”

Neff credited the volunteers for helping not only raise the funds, but also spend hundreds of hours helping with the project execution, and doing everything from art projects to salvage auctions to help subsidize the project another $10,000 by making use of the unneeded materials.

Mary Ginder of Cleona keeps the library front desk going during the grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 11. Ginder said that the new welcoming area is very light and open, “it’s just wonderful.” Ginder said patrons are all very pleased when they come in the door, and said she was hard-pressed to choose her own favorite spot.

Library patron Gerhard Mullican, who was there with his son Maxwell, said that he thought the way the community and leadership team designed and saw this project to completion was incredible.

“If every community did it the way they did it, it would be a better world,” said Mullican, who works for a Massachusetts-based architectural firm that designs libraries. Speaking as both a parent and a professional, Mullican said that he thought they took limited resources and multiplied them to make an end product that is incredible.

The new main entrance to the Annville Free Library. The structure’s gable with double chimneys is a homage to the current structure’s gables, which themselves are a design reference to a late 1800s house that previously stood on the site.

Campaign board member Carolyn Scott told LebTown that the new community space and dedicated children’s library are already being used heavily. “Children will have a chance to linger, play, explore books, and their caregivers who are accompanying them can visit together,” said Scott. There’s a lot more space to spread out, “to linger and to socialize,” she said, as they are so important these days to build community relationships.

Lebanon Valley College freshman Nokomis Styers was doing a work study rotation at the library during the ceremony Saturday. She said that even though she was new to the area, she could tell that “everybody here knows everybody” and that it was nice to see patrons talking to their kids about how they had also come there. Styers, who is a speech pathology major, said that she enjoyed being part of that generational development.

Lebanon Valley College freshman Nokomis Styers sits at the youth library desk during the grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 11. Styers said that she could tell quickly that the library was at the center of tight-knit community.

Tanya Bellay, who was there with sons Aaron and Asher, said they use the library very often and were very excited about the renovation project. Aaron and Asher particularly like visiting the train set in the basement when coming for books

“We love this library,” said Bellay.

Find more information about the Annville Free Library, including its hours, on their website, Annville.LCLibs.org. Find more of our photos from Saturday below.

The Annville Free Library is at 216 E. Main St., Annville. Here, the original 1950s library building and the newly renovated and connected duplex building next door can be seen from Main Street/Route 422.
A selection of snacks were available during the open house at Annville Free Library following its grand opening ceremony for a $4.5 million renovation and expansion project. In the background, a seating area called “Lillie’s Place” in honor of the library’s founder is below.
A seating area in the newly-renovated Annville Free Library called Lillie’s Place, named in honor of Lillie Struble, who in 1939 organized the effort to form the Annville Free Library.
LebTown file photo of the new community space at the Annville Free Library, located in a duplex next-door that was renovated and connected to the original library building. The community space is seen here with an adjustable divider wall closing the room into two separate spaces.
A new water fountain and water bottle filling station at the Annville Free Library. This accessible and thoughtfully designed project makes the library a more usable and flexible space, while also boosting its core uses for stacks, children’s programming, and other library services.
A new secondary entrance to the Annville Free Library facing Main Street/Route 422. The duplex to the left was connected and renovated as part of the $4.5 million project, and today serves as a much-needed community space for library events and other community gatherings.
A youth area at the Annville Free Library features games, seating, and other amenities for kids to hang out after school.
The look out from the grades 5-12 “Lit Lounge” at Annville Free Library. The youth area looks out towards the library’s new main entrance, which features a seating area off of the parking lot.
A new, modern stairway leads patrons towards the dedicated children’s area at the Annville Free Library. Previous uses of the space have been moved to the new community room and elsewhere in the renovated and expanded library along Main Street in Annville.
An abacus-inspired decoration greets patrons as they walk downstairs towards the dedicated children’s area at the Annville Free Library. The abacus decoration was one of the finishing touches as the project wrapped up its last minute details in advance of the grand opening.
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Davis Shaver is the publisher of LebTown. He grew up in Lebanon and currently lives outside of Hershey, PA.

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