The Abington Library Society was founded in Jenkintown in 1803 serving all of Abington, Cheltenham, and Jenkintown. Jenkintown split off from Abington Township in 1874; Rockledge in 1893. Abington Township Public Library was created in 1966.
In the 1950s, library service was rendered by three libraries which were formerly located within township limits: Abington Library Society (serving wards 1, 2, 4, 7, 10), Glenside Library in Cheltenham (serving wards 3, 11, 12, 13) and the Roslyn Library Association (serving wards 5, 6, 8, 9), supplemented by Montgomery County Library Bookmobile service.
Cooperative talks for improving library service in the Abington area began in 1962. In 1966, the Board of Commissioners appointed a Director of Libraries and created a Board of Library Directors for Abington Township Public Library.
In June 1966, Charles R. Dietz, who was the Director of Libraries for Abington Township Public Library at the time, prepared Quality Library Service for a First Class Township Abington, PA, a plan of library development and cooperative system given to Board of Library Directors. The plan suggested a central library for Abington, serving Abington Library Society and Glenside, be established and combined with a cooperative system for eastern Montgomery County. He recommended locating the central library on Old York Road, the township’s main artery, near the township complex.
Nine libraries formed an Interim Committee for a Cooperative Library System in the Old York Road area: Bryn Athyn, Cheltenham, Hatboro, Jenkintown, Lower Moreland, Rockledge, Springfield, Upper Moreland, and Abington. The plan to develop a cooperative library federation between four municipalities in Eastern Montgomery County--Abington, Cheltenham, Jenkintown and Rockledge and their three library associations--resulted in the creation of the Old York Road Cooperative Library System. Once operative it could include the other five additional municipalities.
In 1967, the Roslyn Library, then on Easton Road, became a branch of the Abington Township Public Library. In 1967 and 1968, the government provided funds to improve library service in the township. Abington Township decided to transfer these funds to the Abington Library Society instead of establishing a Township Library. Abington would pay an annual fee so that township residents could use the library free of charge. The Abington Library Society purchased books, A/V equipment, and two portable classrooms, which have since served as the Roslyn Library since 1972.
In 1970, there was a disagreement about the annual fee for 1971 and no agreement could be reached. In response, Abington Township removed all materials the Abington Library Society purchased with federal and township funds and established the Abington Township Public Library. (By this time Abington Library Society served only Jenkintown, and Cheltenham had its own library.)
Abington Township and Cheltenham still had reciprocal borrowing through the 1980s, with Abington Township paying a fee for this purpose. Abington Township stopped paying in 1980 and the agreement resumed in 1985, though Abington Township no longer provided funding.
In 1995, the Montgomery County Library and Information Network Consortium (MCLINC), a non-profit organization that provides independently governed and funded libraries, was founded. MCLINC connects almost every library in Montgomery County through a central integrated library system, which allows for reciprocal borrowing privileges between all member libraries. The Library Directors of member libraries serve as the Board of Directors of MCLINC.
Abington Free Library
In 1970 it was proposed that Abington Township purchase the Best and Co. Building. Commissioners voted not to buy the building, and agreed to rent a portion of it. There was an open house and dedication of the Abington Free Library on Sept. 9, 1971. The building was located at the population center of Abington Township in part of the building formerly occupied by Best and Co. The main branch of the Abington Township Public Library remains in this location to this day.
A plan was developed in 1975: A Cost Study of Abington Free Library Future Alternatives 1975. The alternatives included four options: Continue renting 11,000 square feet in Best and Co. building (40% of building); purchase entire building, 25,000 square feet; purchase land and build a new building; maintain present Best and Co. usage and build a new 11,000-square-foot library in another location.
In response, in 1975, the Abington Township Board of Commissioners voted to take the Best and Co. property through condemnation proceedings. In 1976, the Board of Commissioners established a purchase price of $725,000 for the Best and Co. building, and authorized a ten-year bond issue in June 1976.
In 1999, Phase I of the Abington Free Library Automation/Renovation Project was completed, using community and Township funds. Abington Free Library was completely automated including a public catalog and Internet access. The Main Floor was completely renovated and redecorated, and the roof was replaced. All heating and cooling systems were revamped and the main entrance was moved to the front of the building and a foyer was added. By the following year, usage increased 40% in response to automation and renovation.
In 2001, Phase II of the Automation/Renovation Project was completed, including a total renovation of the Children’s Department, meeting rooms, and the Adult Literacy Office. The library achieved full ADA compliance and added flexible state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment to the public meeting rooms.
On March 14, 2020, the Abington Township Public Library was closed to the public due to COVID restrictions implemented by Montgomery County. Books were made available to patrons through curbside pickup during the closure. The Abington Free Library opened to the public in May 2021 and Roslyn opened to the public in August 2021.
The original Roslyn Library facility was dedicated on June 14, 1965 in the basement of the office of Dr. Walter F. Merscher, a founding member of the Roslyn Library Association formed by the Junior Chamber of Commerce in Roslyn.
The Roslyn Library Board was dissolved on January 1, 1967 and Roslyn Library became a branch of Abington Township Public Library. The library relocated to larger quarters in the basement of the North Federal Loan and Savings Fund Society on Easton Road
On December 11, 1972, Roslyn Library doubled in size by moving to two portable classrooms, which were originally owned by the Abington Library Society, at 2412 Avondale Avenue. The land was donated by Roslyn Fire Company for the Roslyn Library’s use.
In 2022, the Roslyn Library celebrated its 50-year anniversary at the Avondale Avenue location.