May UBFP Column – My Visit To The Historic Newtown Library Company

5 May

I write for the UBFP Newspaper!

I wanted to share the article I wrote for the Upper Bucks Free Press (the newspaper I write for) for the May 2014 issue! The online version was just published. To see the online version of the newspaper, click HERE (okay the online version isn’t up yet (the paper version is out) but as soon as it is, I will update the link 😉 ). 

I hope you like it!

My Visit To The Historic Newtown Library Company
The Newtown Library Company is close by in the historic community of Newtown, Bucks County. The library, founded in 1760, is the oldest library in Bucks county and reported to be the third oldest in Pennsylvania. It was originally housed in different people’s houses as a collection of the townspeople’s books. The library moved from house to house with different families taking responsibility for the collection every few years. In 1813 the library moved to Newtown’s courthouse building when the Bucks county seat moved from Newtown to Doylestown.  In 1912, after two more moves, the library finally ended up at its present location.


I was fortunate to be given a guided tour of the library by Anne McKernan (check out her Itsy Bitsy Mom blog HERE), library volunteer, school tour guide, and leader of Story Time at the library. I learned from Mrs. McKernan that since its beginning, The Newtown Library Company has always been a “subscription library,” meaning it is not part of the public library system. To borrow books from the library, you have to be a member. Originally, membership to the library cost $1.00 or a donated book (remember this is back in the days where most families did not have any books and if they did, it was usually the Holy Bible). To this day, the library charges a subscription fee (annually: $20.00 for an individual, $25.00 for a family, and $10.00 for a student or a senior) plus $1.00 for your first year, to keep tradition with its original rules of membership. Anyone is welcome to come in and browse through the books or use the library’s resources, but to check a book out, you have to be a member.
Today, the library offers all of the tools you’d find in modern libraries, (new releases, programs, computers, internet, reading rooms, etc.) but there at this library, there is art and history wrapped around all the books! Ms. McKernan showed me some of the great artwork in the library. They have a great collection of paintings, sketches, maps, furniture and other artifacts. One of the interesting pieces I saw was a sign for the library company that was painted in 1825 by famed Pennsylvania artist Edward Hicks. Mrs. McKernan told me that Hicks painted the sign for the library and charged $1.00, the fee he needed to be a member! Another great item was a dining room chair from William Penn’s estate. The library owns three of the chairs but has lent two of them out to other museums.


I was impressed with the artwork in the library and that was even before I got to see the historical book collection! The library houses a large collection of historical books from or about Bucks County and a collection of books by Benjamin Franklin Press. Mrs. McKernan pulled a book printed by Benjamin Franklin (Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives of the Province of Pennsylvania) off the shelf for me to look at. For a bookworm/history buff like me, that was a tremendous experience. I got to touch a book that Benjamin Franklin printed on his printing press. Very cool!


Don’t think that the museum is all history and artwork! It also has a fun children’s area that is packed with great books for kids to enjoy. Mrs. McKernan runs story and craft times every Wednesday for children ages 0-3 and 3-6.
In addition to its children’s programs, the library runs great events all year long. The Bards of Bucks County meet every third Friday of the month. Currently, the library is planning trips to Winterthur (Wilmington, DE) to see “The Costumes of Downtown Abbey.” Winterthur is the only place in the USA to see this exhibit.
I asked Mrs. McKernan what she thought was the most amazing thing about The Newtown Library Company. She said “I think the most amazing thing here is that since 1760, this library has been open and functioning, almost completely with volunteers. We only have one part-time paid position.”
I also think that that is amazing. It is a credit to the library and the community of Newtown.
For more information on The Newtown Library Company, visit
To learn more about Anne McKernan’s story times, visit
While you are visiting the library, check out all the other very cool things to do in Newtown including a self-guided heritage walk. For more information visit,
For more on books and reading visit 

36 Responses to “May UBFP Column – My Visit To The Historic Newtown Library Company”

  1. Penny Parker Klostermann May 5, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    You did a great job on the article, Erik. It’s amazing that the library has been there since 1760. Very cool!


  2. Joanna May 5, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    Very professionally written column, Erik, and I loved finding out about this OLD library.


  3. heylookawriterfellow May 5, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    A great story, Erik! (And I’m geeking out over the Ben Franklin manuscript.)

    Newtown isn’t too far from me. The next time I’m in Bucks, I’ll have to put aside some time to visit the library.


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 5, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

      I was SO GEEKING OUT when she pulled out the Ben Franklin book… of course I tried to look all cool and stuff… but it was SO COOL! It has a lot of interesting things in it – just learning about the history of it was very cool!


  4. Michelle Isenhoff May 5, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    This is so cool!!!!! Love the history and the great pictures you took of the place, Erik. This is so unique: volunteer run, subscription operated. Love it! It looks similar to our local library, which is still housed in its original building. It’s outgrowing even its addition, but the community voted to KEEP IT THERE!


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

      I thought you would like this! 🙂 The library is a very cool place. I never heard of a subscription library before this. I learned a lot!


  5. Robyn Campbell (@authorswrite) May 5, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    Great pics! What a super de duper library. We have a small town library. I like this one better, though. Man. You wrote that? THAT IS TOTALLY COOL! You KNOW I love that story and craft time. 🙂


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 5, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

      You should check out Ms. McKearnan’s blog, she posts about her story and craft time at the library. 🙂 Thank you Ms. Campbell!


  6. Romelle Broas May 5, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    What an enjoyable tour. Thanks, Erik, for bringing us along. The information about it being a subscription library was interesting. The most amazing experience is that you got to touch a piece of Benjamin Franklin’s book!


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 5, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

      I loved writing this story and learning about the library! It’s one of my favorite articles. Thanks Ms. Broas! 🙂


  7. itsybitsymom May 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

    Erik you are so awesome! This article is wonderfully written (100% accurate) and really captures and celebrates that spirit of Newtown Library Company! Thank you so much for featuring us!! – Mrs. McK


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 5, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

      Thank YOU so much for telling me about the library and giving me and mom the tour. We had a great visit! The library is really cool! I hope to visit again! 🙂


      • itsybitsymom May 6, 2014 at 9:26 am #

        Any time! We’d love to see you again!


  8. itsybitsymom May 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    Reblogged this on itsybitsymom and commented:
    Check out this fabulous article about Newtown Library Company by kid-blogger Erik from This Kid Reviews Books!


  9. Darlene May 5, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    An awesome article, well written and full of interesting information. I love old buildings and especially libraries. Well done once again!


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 5, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

      The building was really cool. I love that they tried to keep a lot of it like it was originally. Thanks Ms. Foster! 🙂


  10. ontheplumtree May 5, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    What a great project Erik. and this looks ike a lovely building.


  11. Elle Carter Neal May 5, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

    It looks like a very nice library. I’m very impressed that it has been maintained by volunteers for so long. It goes to show the dedication some people have to promoting reading and the enjoyment of books.

    I also think it would be fun to make a little printing press to play around with 🙂


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 6, 2014 at 7:17 am #

      That’s a great idea! 🙂 It is amazing that they keep it going with just volunteers. What a great tradition!


  12. writersideup May 6, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Erik, this was SUCH an enjoyable read 😀 And you really show your growing expertise as a writer! Job REALLY well done!

    I wish I lived close enough to this library to visit, but… 😦 Just like books themselves, it looks like it transports you back in time. Getting to “touch” Benjamin Franklin’s books is something you’ll never forget, I’m sure, and I have to say this—when you’re that excited about something, let it show 😀 No need to look “all cool” and whatever 😀

    Thank you for introducing us to this wonderful library (wish the public library system had that kind of sustainable funding!) and to Mrs. McKernan. Checking out her blog now!…


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 7, 2014 at 7:09 am #

      Thank you! 🙂 I really enjoyed my visit to the library. Thanks for checking out Mrs. McK’s blog! 🙂


  13. LovableLobo May 6, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Awesome post, SuperKid!


  14. KidLitReviews May 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    Very nice, Mr. Reporter. And you beat me to it! (darn, just kidding.) The library sounds amazing. I would love to see such an older place with books of this countries history. How cool it must have been to read a book a fore father wrote or touched. It boggles the mind that you could touch such a book and Benjamin Franklin touched the same book. 🙂


  15. readingwithrhythm May 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    What a great article Erik! I love learning about libraries around the land. i’ve never heard of a subscription library. I like that idea. Thanks for sharing your story!


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 7, 2014 at 7:12 am #

      I learned what a subscription library is too! It’s pretty cool that the membership supports it! 🙂


  16. Jilanne Hoffmann May 7, 2014 at 2:57 am #

    Wow! You’ve got me geeking out, too, Erik! Have you been to the Library of Congress? If you haven’t, I’d bet you’d love it.

    History is so rich and fascinating, isn’t it?


    • thiskidreviewsbooks May 7, 2014 at 7:14 am #

      I haven’t been to the Library of Congress, but I did meet the librarian of congress, James Hadley Billington, at the National Book Festival in DC. I think we are going again this year. I’ll ask my parents if we can stop by the library. 🙂


      • stanleyandkatrina May 16, 2014 at 9:55 am #

        We keep thinking about attending the National Book Festival – I see the authors were just announced – we were waiting for that. 🙂 Your picture of you looking at the book that Benjamin Franklin printed looks like a scene out of National Treasure. Great post.


      • thiskidreviewsbooks May 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

        We’re going! This year it’s in the convention center. I liked it on the Mall – I hope it’s as good. I am still geeking out that I got to touch a book Ben Franklin did! 😀


  17. Myra GB June 9, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    How amazing is that to have a guided tour. It must have been such an awesome experience for you, Erik. I hope I get to visit this lovely place in my lifetime. 🙂


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