The J. Lewis Crozer Library has the distinction of being the third library founded in the state of Pennsylvania. In 1769, a group of citizens felt the need for a library and set up a book collection on the second floor of a market in what was then the center of commerce in the small borough of Chester. They named it the Lyceum. From that point on interest peaked and waned until, in 1871, the collection was “laid away” in a building on 4th Street in Chester.
In 1830 an act of the legislature formed a charter changing the name to the Chester Library Company. The library languished for about 40 years while it was situated first in the offices of a local business then in a building also used by the community and a local church. In 1873, Laura Hand, the daughter of the pastor of the church, conceived of the idea for using the collection of books in a place where “working men and females might assemble in evenings for conversations and reading.” She named it the “Mechanic Reading Room,” and in 1876 the library was incorporated as the Chester Free Library.
In 1877, a building was constructed on Broad Street (now 9th Street) to house the library and to serve as a community center. In 1925, the trustees of the J. Lewis Crozer estate presented funds that had been bequeathed to the library upon his death in 1897. The name of the library was changed to the J. Lewis Crozer Library and was merged with the West End Free Library to become the major library in the city of Chester. The first board of trustees was appointed by the board of the Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland as stated in J. Lewis Crozer’s bequest.
During the 1940s, the main building on Ninth Street was closed and the library was relocated to the Deshong Museum in the center of the city. Due to a population decline, the branches closed during the 1950s and 1960s, and the main library became the only library in the city.
In 1976, a new building was constructed at 620 Engle Street to serve as a branch for the Southern and Western sections of the city. In 1978, a board decision was made to vacate the rented quarters in the center of the city and merge the collection into the branch building, now the main library in the city. The board purchased the new building outright in 1984. The West End Branch became the main library facility in Chester.
Today the library continues its work to provide Chester citizens with access to the information they need. A quality collection greets the patrons, with the ability for them to request items that their library does not currently have on the shelf. Internet access and word-processing software and classes on their use are provided for all patrons. Children can use a friendly computer with games promoting early literacy and scholastic success. The Crozer Library continues to serve its population as the very nature of information expands and evolves in the 21st century.