“The Library has always been at the core of downtown”

As a child, Harvey Freedenberg would visit what is now McCormick Riverfront Library and leave with “an armload of books.” Those books came from the children’s area – the space that later became administrative offices and is now being restored to its original purpose.

It’s one more bit of circular serendipity embedded in The Library’s “Your Place to Belong” campaign. The transformative project is renovating McCormick Riverfront Library and adjoining it to Haldeman Haly House, the historic next-door property once owned by the benefactor whose bequest financed the founding of Dauphin County Library System in 1914.  

“We’re grateful to the people who over 100 years ago made all this possible,” Harvey says. “I like the history that’s associated with this project. It’s connecting the present, the past, and the future of The Library, all linked together in one place.”

Harvey is a former Library board president who still serves in various capacities, including the “Your Place to Belong” campaign advisory council. Linda Freedenberg, Harvey’s wife, says she has provided backup all these years.

“I’m a good customer,” she says with a laugh. “I was the one to take our kids to Storytime at East Shore Area Library. It was a great outlet for a new mother who wasn’t working and got a chance to meet people. That was our day. We worked around the Storytime hour.”

Harvey, what were some of The Library’s significant accomplishments during your board tenure? There was a ton of activity. We renewed the system through building projects and expanded the availability of computers. Sometimes, people ask why we need libraries when computers have all this information. For many people, The Library is the only place they can access a computer. Plus, not everything is on the internet. There’s a need for books. There’s a need for access to a top-quality reference librarian, and the only way to do that is to go to The Library. We still need libraries, and we’re always going to need libraries.

Linda, what do you think of the new children’s area? It’s a wonderful thing. I was a preschool teacher and kindergarten teacher in my former life, and that’s where my heart lies. Any time we can get young kids into a facility and engage them in learning is a very positive thing for their development and the relationship between parent and child. A lot of parents are working so many hours. They have this one place they can go. They might not be able to go to a bookstore and look at books with their kids, and even if they do, the kids leave disappointed because they couldn’t buy any books. When you go to The Library, you can take the books home. That’s a win for the family.

What will the transformed Library offer the city of Harrisburg?

Linda: It’s a wonderful opportunity for people in the downtown area to have cards and get services from The Library who couldn’t normally access other branches. The fact that it’s being enlarged and improved is great for Harrisburg.

Harvey: The Library has always been at the core of downtown and making it more accessible and attractive for people who live in the city is a wonderful development. The creation of the welcome center in memory of T. Morris Chester is a meaningful way to connect The Library to the history of the Black community. It’s one of the many exciting aspects of this project. We love The Library, and we want more people to share our love for it.