Serving Monessen and the Mon Valley for 80 Years
In May 2016, Monessen Public Library marked its eightieth year of service to Monessen and the Mon Valley. Since opening its doors on May 1, 1936, the library has grown substantially. It has provided numerous educational and recreational opportunities for members of the community, in addition to its current offering of 50,000 items. Throughout the year, the library will be celebrating its years of service with special events and activities.
In February of 1935, a library of 200 volumes opened in the Monessen High School under the Emergency Educational Relief Administration, which was part of the New Deal legislation. The Library was open five nights a week from 6 to 10 pm. By October of 1935, the legislation was disbanded, and the Monessen School Board temporarily sponsored the Library.
On January 8, 1936, a voluntary committee presented a formal petition to Monessen City Council for funds to maintain a library for Monessen citizens. Members of the committee were Wade Blackburn, Mrs. J. Karl Beery and Harry R. Pore. Council directed that $1000 be listed in the city budget. An open meeting to form a library was called, which resulted in the appointment of a board of directors, officers and committee members.
The group then began a campaign to get charter members for the library association. Nine people began the drive by contributing $100 each, with 110 other members contributing $10 or more. Mrs. Martha Jane Bloom Whitsett was appointed librarian to be aided by helpers from the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Women’s clubs, fraternal societies and churches joined with the Chamber of Commerce to set up a permanent organization to finance, locate and provide a free public library. Three rooms on the second floor of the Barker Building at the corner of Donner and Sixth were rented.
On May 1, 1936, Monessen Public Library opened to the public with a stock of 1,234 donated books.
This was not the first attempt at providing Monessen residents with library service. In 1908, the sister of F. R. Jones, of Monessen, attempted to establish a branch of the Braddock Carnegie Library in town. It was to have 2,000 volumes, along with access to the 60,000 volumes in Braddock.
She met with the borough council, school directors, business men and citizens and received encouragement and promises of strong support. Monessen was to furnish a rent free room with the lighting, heating and salaries of the librarian and janitor covered. It never went any further.
The library was housed on Fifth Street for a number of years and in 1959 was moved via “student book brigade” to the current location of 326 Donner Avenue.
In 1962 the library was designated as one of 28 “District Centers” in the state and its’ official moniker became the “Monessen Public Library & District Center”. The library functioned as the District Center for Westmoreland and Fayette Counties until the end of 2010 at which point District services were transferred to another entity.
Since January of 2011, the library has been functioning as the “Monessen Public Library”.
Here is a short video about the history of Monessen: