US Stamps

American Philatelic Research Library begins final construction phase

Apr 28, 2021, 3 AM
A rendering by Pieper, O’Brien, Herr Architects of a reading area in the new American Philatelic Research Library at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, Pa.

The long-anticipated completion of a new state-of-the-art American Philatelic Research Library is much closer to reality. On July 31, the APRL board of trustees approved plans for the library’s final construction, which should begin by mid-August.

“The completion of this project will provide secure and appropriate storage for the library’s unique collections and much-needed workspace for our staff, volunteers, and visitors,” said APRL librarian Tara Murray.

The new library space, which will increase the current library’s size by about 50 percent, could be ready to be occupied as early as April 1, 2016. The grand opening would be several weeks later to allow time for materials to be transferred from the current library.

The library is within the 100,000-square-foot American Phil-atelic Center, which occupies the historic former Match Factory in Bellefonte, Pa. The APRL and American Philatelic Society, both nonprofit organizations, share about 55,000 square feet of space, while the rest of the facility is leased to 11 tenants.

The Centre Region Planning Agency in July gave final approval to the $2.1 million final phase of the library project. The cost of the entire APRL project is about $3.5 million. A good portion of the final phase is being funded by a $1.3 million gift from Walter Weber of Bellingham, Wash., who died in May 2014. It was the largest gift ever received by the APS.

The American Philatelic Research Library is considered one of the world’s most valuable assets in the stamp hobby. The library holds more than 23,000 book titles and 6,000 journal titles on its nearly three miles of shelving. More than 30,000 society members are invited to utilize the library’s services, either on-site or from long distance, and the library is open to the public.

“Not only will the new library provide visitors in Bellefonte a more flexible and comfortable space to browse and research, but it will also allow our staff and volunteers to provide better library services to researchers around the world and to carry out digitization, preservation, and indexing projects,” Murray noted.

The new library will take up most of the space in the upcoming renovation and construction of 19,500 square feet. The new space will bring together all functions, collections and resources of the APRL, which have been scattered throughout the American Philatelic Center since moving there in 2004.

The new library includes a secure separate rare book room, space-saving compact shelving, public access computers and Wi-Fi throughout, reading lounges, a space for map and large-document storage, a donation-processing room, climate-controlled storage areas, study carrels with lockable storage and a group study area. It also will include adjoining restrooms, an elevator to offer handicapped accessibility, and a used book and gift shop.

About $1.4 million in prior construction beginning in 2010 — including a new floor, roof, windows, stairwells and structural support — has been completed in the library’s new space.

Veronesi Building and Remodeling Inc. of State College, Pa., is the general contractor on the final phase of the library project.

Overall, the center includes 18 adjacent buildings on about six acres of land and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The APS and the library moved from nearby State College into the American Philatelic Center in May 2004. Since purchasing the property — which was an active match factory from 1899 to 1947 — in 2002, the APS has already completed $13.5 million in renovations to the property.

The APS was founded in 1886. The APRL was incorporated in 1968 and serves as the library and archives for the APS. Both are non-profit educational organizations.

The American Philatelic Center employs 31 full-time staff, and about 20 regular volunteers are on site. The center, at 100 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte, PA 16823, is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. business days. Detailed plans for the library can be found online.