What's happening to the historic South Side Branch?

The historic South Side Branch of the Bethlehem Area Public Library will close from January 2 to March 2 for privately-funded renovations.


The doors of the South Side Branch of the Bethlehem Area Public Library will close on January 2 to prepare for privately-funded renovations to the cherished landmark that serves as the social, cultural and educational center for the Southside community.

Library services have changed significantly since the South Side Branch, 400 Webster Street, was built in 1929, but the interior features most of the original shelving and furniture even as technology and the collection have changed.  

The South Side Branch has helped generations of families improve their lives in a safe and caring environment. Restoring the Branch, historically an after school destination for children for decades, gives disadvantaged youth a level playing field in their educational experience.

The South Side Branch of the Library is uniquely positioned to help the Southside residents build a better future -- one of job growth, opportunity, and community vitality.  

Robert Furst of Architecture Furst and will supervise the half million dollar project. His plan incorporates modern features that echo the warmth and character of the original architecture. The interior layout will be redesigned to meet the needs of the community and provide better access to the collection and make the 1930s building more energy efficient.

The renovations are expected to take two months. While the Branch is closed, materials, programs and services will be available at the Main Library, 11 W. Church Street.

The book drop at the South Side Branch will remain open during construction. Books, movies and music may be borrowed from the Bookmobile which will be parked in front of the Branch on Webster Street on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Library patrons may phone 610-867-3761 x224 for special requests to be picked up on the Bookmobile.

Strong community partnerships make this project possible. A substantial anonymous gift kicked off the fundraising efforts which resulted in gifts from 13 foundations and over 150 individuals. Many institutions and corporations view the project as a way to invest in the Southside community and leverage more partnerships and funds for resources in the future.  

Lehigh University, Sands Casino Resort, Air Products, Bethlehem and Morning Star Rotaries, First Windish Fraternal Beneficial Society, KNBT Charitable Foundation, South Bethlehem Historical Society, Southside Ministries, Thomas F. Staley Foundation, and Wells Fargo Community Partners Program contributed to the capital campaign. The City of Bethlehem awarded a Community Development Block Grant to the project.

While the Branch renovations continue we invite the public to learn more, follow progress, and participate in the historic transformation of this source of pride for the entire community.

Volunteers will be needed to relocate the entire contents of the main floor to the basement.  Assistant Library Director Diane Davis is hoping to enlist enough volunteers to form a human chain in order to pass boxes of books from one floor to the other. Phone 610-867-3761 x212 to volunteer.

Follow progress on the Library’s blog at www.bapl.org. For questions about the collection and services, phone the Branch at 610-867-7852.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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