The Erie Public Library was established in 1897, the first in Pennsylvania to be organized under the Free Library Act of 1895, providing that public libraries could be established under school district auspices. The formal dedication of the building at 27 South Park Row took place on February 16, 1899.The building’s original tenants were the Erie School District’s administrative offices, the Public Museum, the Public Library and the Art Club of Erie. Until 1969, the Erie School District offices occupied the second floor while the library was located on the first and basement levels.
In 1963, the State Librarian designated the Erie Public Library as the District Library Center of Erie and Crawford Counties. The primary responsibilities of a District Library Center are to provide free interlibrary loan, reference services and a consultant’s services to the branch libraries as well as to all the local independent libraries in the two county area.
On November 14, 1973 the Erie Public Library broke its direct ties with the Erie School District and became the Erie Metropolitan Library, a non-profit corporation with an independent Board of Directors.
The Erie County Commissioners established a separate library, the Erie County Public Library in 1949. The main purpose of the Erie County Public Library was to serve the elementary schools of Erie County, which were without libraries of their own. This purpose dictated the direction the county library took in its formative years: that of a library on wheels and a philosophy of outreach. The County Library was established in the Priestly Avenue School in Lawrence Park and in 1966, moved again to an industrial arts building at 4212 Iroquois Avenue, the present location of the Iroquois Avenue Branch Library.
The Erie City and County Library formally came into existence on July 1, 1976. This library was a result of the merger between the Erie Metropolitan Library and the Erie County Public Library. A merger had been discussed since the 1960’s. In 1973, an independent library consultant was commissioned to study the feasibility of a merger. The result of this study was “the Machinski Report” and the recommendation was to merge. Serious negotiations between the board of Directors of the Erie Metropolitan Library and the Board of Trustees of the Erie county Library resumed in the fall of 1975. A $200,000 federal grant and agreement by the Erie County Commissioners to provide financial support to the Erie Metropolitan Library supplied the final impetus for merger. The federal grant was used to implement the merger and to establish two new branch outlets.
In October 1979, the Erie City and County Library was taken over by Erie County government. Administration spearheaded the takeover and signed an agreement with the School District of the City of Erie. The agreement reduced annual funding by the school district until contributions ceased on July 1, 1982, the first time since 1899 that the library did not receive appropriations from the Erie School District.
With the change in financial support came other major changes. The name of the library became the Erie County Library System. The library became a department of County Government and an Advisory Board was appointed, and all the staff became county rather than school district employees in 1982.
In 1996, after nearly 100 years of service, the main library on South Park Row closed its doors for the last time. The System name was changed back to the Erie County Public Library and a new main library, the Raymond M. Blasco, M.D. Memorial Library was erected on Erie’s bayfront. This facility was named after Dr. Blasco because of a generous endowment to the library through the Erie Community Foundation. The Erie County community contributed significant funding for the building.
A Bookmobile services those areas of Erie County that do not have local libraries or branch libraries.
Dr. Raymond Marcel Blasco
Date of Birth: November 14, 1925
Date of Death: March 16, 1995
The Main Library building of the Erie County Public Library is the Raymond M. Blasco, M.D., Memorial Library, named for Dr. Blasco. Dr. Blasco, who lived in Wattsburg, PA, donated money to replace the Library's Bookmobile and to provide a funding source for the building of libraries in the Erie area.
In response to requests for information, Dr. Blasco's sister has provided the following information about him.
Dr. Blasco was the son of Sycamore and Maryann McClelland Blasco.
Dr. Blasco married in 1959. He has 3 children, 1 son and 2 daughters.
He enjoyed playing the accordion, watching birds, playing bridge and reading novels.
Dr. Blasco attended Venango Township Elementary school in Lowville, PA and Wattsburg High School in Wattsburg, PA. Shortly after graduating in 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Dr. Blasco then enrolled at University of Pittsburgh and received a Bachelors of Science Degree in 1949, Masters of Science Degree in 1951 and Medical Degree in 1954. Dr. Blasco did his Internship at Hamot Hospital in Erie, PA and continued practicing in Erie through 1956-1974.
Dr. Blasco then moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL and practiced medicine for 12 more years. He retired 9 years before his death.
On December 18, 1990 Dr. Blasco donated Access PA equipment, computers and recreational reading materials for the Seneca High School library. He also set up an annual scholarship fund in 1991 for graduates at Seneca who meet the requirements.
Dr. Blasco purchased and had built to his specifications the bookmobile for the Erie County Public Library on February 15, 1992. He donated large sums of money for the new Erie County Public Library Main Library, which was dedicated to him after his death.
The Erie County Library was formed in 1949 and housed in the Behrend Center from 1950-54. The Bookmobile was the primary service of the Library. In 1955 the County Library moved to free space provided at the Priestly Avenue School. The Library then moved its headquarters to the building at 4212 Iroquois Avenue in Lawrence Park Township in 1966. The building was constructed in 1951 for industrial arts classes and was given to the Library free of rent by the Lawrence Park School District.
In 1976 the Erie County Public Library and the Erie Metropolitan Library merged to become the Erie City and County Library and the facility on Iroquois Avenue became the Lawrence Park Branch Library. The Branch was refurbished in the fall of 1978 with funding from the Iroquois School District and the Library General Fund.
In 1995, Dr. Raymond M. Blasco, MD created an Endowment Fund through the Erie Community Foundation, that is to benefit the Erie County Public Library. The purpose of the Fund is to construct new freestanding branch libraries for Erie County Library users and to supplement the library materials budget.
In 1998 a five-year plan for the funding of Pennsylvania Libraries was increased sufficiently to allow the County Library to continue operating its branches. The Erie Regional Library Foundation was then incorporated in 2000, to fund the construction of branches to replace the existing rental and/or donated facilities. These rental facilities could no longer accommodate the public’s need for technology and other library services.
The Iroquois Avenue Library is the first freestanding branch library for the County, and the site was selected on 4212 Iroquois Avenue from a Branch Task Force which was made up of representatives from the County including: the County Executive, the Library Director, members of the Library Advisory Board, Erie Regional Library Foundation representatives, and Friends of the Erie County Public Library.
The architectural firm of Weber, Murphy, Fox was selected and construction of the new branch began in the fall of 2001. The library was temporarily relocated to Lawrence Park Municipal Building next door. The design of the building was to incorporate local history, architecture and personality of the surrounding area. The "theme" of a small town Railroad Station was chosen with the interior design to be the "Arts and Crafts/Mission Style" of the 1920's. The new building is 5,240 square feet in size and includes separate children's and multi-purpose meeting rooms and a Clock Tower Reading Lounge.
A "donor recognition" tree commemorates and is designed in the shape of the historic "Elbow Tree" that has occupied one of the local parks for over 100 years. Leaves can be purchased for the donor tree that will be on permanent display in the foyer of the new library.
Monday, September 30th was the opening date for the new Iroquois Avenue Branch Library with a "Grand Opening" in mid-October, 2002.