The Altoona Area Public Library celebrated its history from its humble beginnings of a room atop a ticket office to the three-story, fully-equipped structure that stands today.

On Thursday, November 9, 2017, the Altoona Area Public Library started off the presentation with the sealing of a time capsule at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, 1210 11th Ave, Altoona. The time capsule will not be opened for another decade, to be opened at the 100th Birthday Celebration. Contained in the capsule were polaroid photos of the current library staff, library flyers and program calendars, 3D printed lego and other trinkets made by a 3D printer, Solar eclipse glasses, a fidget spinner, library employee profile forms,  Children’s drawings of their visions for the future, an Altoona Mirror, a Guestbook from those who attended the 90th Birthday and an oral history interview transcript of Debra Appleby who was involved in the book walk that moved the library collection from the Roosevelt building to the “new” library building in 1969.

You can read a copy of the Altoona Area Public Library 90th Anniversary Oral History Project online at

The library also honored its first Novel Service Award Winner, Dick Hall, in appreciation of his advocacy and service to the Altoona Area Public Library. Dick has been invaluable as a board member, influential leader and a treasured patron.

Dick Hall retired after 32 years with the Barash Group. Dick was active in the Altoona Chamber of Commerce and the State College equivalent, and served many years on the Altoona Area Public Library Board of Directors.  He is also currently serving on the Blair County Library System Board of Directors.

Senator John Eichelberger was unable to attend the event, but sent a citation for Dick Hall from the PA State Senate, recognizing him for all of his work for the library and the community.

State Reps. Judy Ward and John McGinnis were in attendance and presented Library Director Jennifer Knisely with a citation from the Pennsylvania House for the 90th Birthday.

The history of the library: Remember the Past. Look to the Future.

The first library to be established in Altoona was the Mechanics’ Library and Reading Room Association under the supervision of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). Ninety years ago, the PRR started to look for an organization to house and maintain the collection of books and to oversee the conversion of the Mechanics’ Library into a free public library. They found that organization in the Altoona Area School District.

The collection of the Mechanics’ Library was moved into the Roosevelt Junior High School building in the late 1920’s. The solution was expected to be temporary, but after 40 years the move appeared to be permanent. The Mechanics’ Library had been converted to a free public library and disassociated from the PRR.

In the 1960’s, several community groups with support from the school board began the first successful movement to obtain an independent structure for the Altoona Area Public Library. In 1968, the building at 1600 Fifth Avenue was erected. The first building for the sole purpose of housing a public library collection was thus created for the people of Altoona.

For over 90 years, the Altoona Area Public Library has been serving our community, offering
free informational, educational, and entertaining resources and programs.

Thank You To Our Friends!

The Friends of the Altoona Area Public Library presented a check for $50,000 to the Altoona Area Public Library. The friends work year round to raise money for the library through the Spring and Fall book sale, pecan sale and other activities. The Friends are always looking for new members to join them!

Pictured Left to right: Altoona Area Public Library Director Jennifer Knisely, Friends Secretary Alice Balest, AAPL Board President Debra Leberfinger, Friends President Paula Ford. Absent from photo Ann Wolf, Used Book Sale Chair and Helen Gorsuch, Treasurer.

Lights On Afterschool Initiative

We at the Altoona Library support the Lights On Afterschool Initiative and its powerful message that millions more kids need quality after school programs. “Every day across this country, afterschool programs are keeping kids safe, inspiring them to learn, and helping working families. Given the economy, it is more important than ever that we sustain the quality afterschool programs we have and support new ones. As we celebrate the 16th year of Lights On Afterschool, we are working to ensure tha many more students have fun, engaging in hands-on learning opportunities after school — building robots, producing music videos, planting community gardens, exploring college and career paths, and so much more.” Jodi Grant, Afterschool Alliance

That is why we are so proud to bring the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s Teen Reading Lounge program to our teens after school here at the Altoona Library! Teen Reading Lounge is an interactive book discussion group that features humanities activities for teens ages 12-18. On October 22, 2015 we will have a pottery program for teens from 3:30-5PM here at the Library and will decorate Lights On Afterschool support “lightbulb” cutouts to be hung in the Library’s Young Adult area.

Join us in supporting after school programming! Visit:



#TeenReadingLounge at

Engage for Health

Today, as part of our PA Forward health literacy initiative, we were happy to have Christopher Holland, Physician Assistant at the UPMC Altoona Emergency Department, to assist in presenting a new pilot program titled, Questions are the Answer. The program was developed by The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania and its Pennsylvania Hospital Engagement Network. It was then modified by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region.

This program highlights the kinds of actions empowered patients can take to be more engaged in their healthcare. One of the major aspects of the presentation was encouraging patients to ask questions of their healthcare professionals so it is confirmed that communication is clear. Should I take both of these prescriptions together? What is this treatment for? What are my treatment options? What do you mean by a normal amount of salt? These are all examples of questions that could improve your health outcomes and improve your communication with your healthcare professional. If you missed the program today be sure to check out this video that illustrates the point further, that questions are the answer.

The Great Migration

Behind the scenes, over the past several months the staff of the Altoona Area Public Library have been preparing for a big move. The move has nothing to do with our physical location; it has to do with our data. On June 16th the library will officially be using a different ILS (Integrated Library System). ILS software helps us manage the vast amount of items and patrons we keep track of so you can check out our materials. In addition to saving us money, the move to the new ILS will connect us to many other libraries in the state that use the same system, pooling our resources together.

By this fall, all eight libraries in Blair County will have gone through the same move that Altoona is about to embark. So what does this mean for you? What you will notice immediately is that our check-out times will be longer on many items. This has already taken effect. As the other libraries approach their move dates, we will all be bringing our circulation polices into alignment. Eventually, you will only need one card to check out materials for the entire Blair County Library System and you will be able to search one catalog to see the entire county system’s holdings. The catalog you search for items online with will also look different, have more features, and we are confident will be much more user friendly than our current system.

We ask for and appreciate your patience as our staff adjusts to this transition. There may be longer lines at checkout, especially on June 16th. We will all need a few weeks to get used to the new system, but we look forward to the new functionality and the one card for the county libraries. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask one of our knowledgeable staff. We look forward to hearing any feedback you have. Happy reading!