American Philatelic Research Library officially open

EMMA GOSALVEZ/THE EXPRESS Mick Zais, left, president of the American Philatelic Society, and Roger Brody, president of the American Philatelic Research Library, cut the ribbon on the American Philatelic Research Library. Behind them are, from left: U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson; Mary-Anne Penner, director of stamp services for the U.S. Postal Service; Centre County Commissioners Mark Higgins and Mike Pipe; and Robert Lamb, former executive director of the American Philatelic Society.

BELLEFONTE — Stamp enthusiasts now have access to more than 85,000 library volumes in one place: at the American Philatelic Society headquarters here.

On Saturday, Oct. 29, the American Philatelic Society, located inside Bellefonte’s historic Match Factory, held a grand opening for its more than 19,000 square-foot American Philatelic Research Library. After the ribbon was cut at 10 a.m., visitors were able to tour the center until 4 p.m.

“It finally brings together in one space one of the most comprehensive collections of philatelic literature in the world, which includes many rare and unique items,” said Tara Murray, librarian and director of information services for the American Philatelic Research Library.

Construction on the $4 million two-floor research library began in 2011, and final work was completed in early October, according to Ken Martin, executive director of the American Philatelic Society. The final phase of the construction cost $2.6 million alone.

The library’s 85,000 volumes include books, journals, government documents that include postal maps and regulations, auction catalogs, philatelic exhibits, stamp albums, price lists, new issue information, and archives. The journals include more than 5,000 titles, Martin added.

“For the first time all materials are together in a secure environment,” he said. “The new space is ADA accessible and much more efficient for the staff to serve customers here and from a distance, through scans, mailing of materials, etc.”

In addition, the space provides the latest technology for both visitors and staff, which includes wifi, charging stations and scanning equipment, Murray said.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, several guest speakers addressed a large crowd of not only local visitors but also stamp enthusiasts from around the country, about the importance of the new library to both the philatelic society and Bellefonte.

One of those speakers was Mick Zais, current president of the American Philatelic Society. Zais said he was impressed by the large gathering that came to celebrate the library’s opening, with some visitors who traveled from as far away as Portland.

“I think the presence of so many people from so far away who have made the effort to be here for this special occasion is testimony not only to the passion that we have for our hobby, but for the bonds that draw us together in a community that’s united by a common interest and united by friendship and association,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Howard Township, a Bellefonte native, mentioned plans to start a bipartisan philatelic caucus in the upcoming 115th United States Congress. He said the caucus will focus on issues connected to stamp collecting. He also praised the center for being a great resource for stamp collectors.

“This center is home to thousands if not tens of thousands of items, including the Inverted Jenny, which is probably talked about more than any other item in recent history,” Thompson said. “[It is] a rare stamp recovered after decades of mystery, involvement by the FBI and black market deals.”

The man who is responsible for bringing the American Philatelic Society to Bellefonte, Robert Lamb, former executive director, reminisced on the early days of working to make the center a reality here.

Lamb previously told The Express that he had moved to State College to work at the American Philatelic Society there after he retired from the United States Foreign Service in 1994. When the need for a larger location arose, the society looked toward Bellefonte Borough for help and thus discovered the abandoned Match Factory, which the American Philatelic Society purchased in 2002. Lamb stepped down as the society’s executive director in 2006.

“A lot of people picked up that baton, a lot of people have done a lot of work, given a lot of time, and given a lot of imagination to making this into a wonderful facility,” he said. “I think that we have seen a lot, we’ve seen it grow, but the future is still very broad and we can do a lot for the hobby here.”

The American Philatelic Research Library will be open to the public Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and additional hours will be provided occasionally for special events.

The American Philatelic Society encompasses about 55,000 square feet inside the Match Factory, and the remaining 45,000 square feet of the complex is leased to a dozen additional tenants.