Why I Support The Library: Historic Harrisburg Association Executive Director David Morrison
David Morrison’s education “occurred in libraries as much, if not more so, as in a classroom.”
“Mrs. Inch in lower school, Mrs. Blake in middle school, and Mrs. Drinker in upper school,” he says, recalling his librarians. “They were really mentors. It was a one-on-one relationship. I loved books, and they cultivated my interest in books and reading.”
Morrison is the executive director of the Historic Harrisburg Association, which focuses on preserving and revitalizing the region’s architectural treasures.
A longtime, informal partnership between Historic Harrisburg and The Library is now manifesting itself through the Haldeman Haly mansion's transformation into a community-oriented extension of the McCormick Riverfront Library next door.
Among the mansion’s assets are its grand windows – declared sound and perfectly suitable for restoration, not replacement – by a noted window restorationist brought in by Historic Harrisburg.
“The Library wants to be part of what we do,” says Morrison. “That relationship has been a wonderful two-way street.”
How do you make use of The Library today?
I go to three of the Dauphin County’s libraries – McCormick Riverfront Library, Madeline L. Olewine Memorial Library, and East Shore Area Library. About eight years ago, during my brief period of “retirement” from my old job, I was still working on multiple projects. I made the East Shore Area Library my office. I would take my messenger bag full of paperwork and find a table. I could see a lot of other people there under the same circumstance of depending on it as a place to go. Maybe they didn’t have a job and didn’t have resources, or there wasn’t a place at home they could work effectively, or they, like I, enjoyed the stimulating environment. Libraries are better than ever, the way they make them so appealing and hospitable.
What do you see emerging from the Haldeman Haly project?
The fact that they are going to make maximum use of the interior, restoring some of the early period rooms but making 21st-century facilities in other parts of the building, is fantastic. This will be an example of how to properly preserve and utilize a 200-year-old building in the 21st century. It also transforms the original McCormick Riverfront Library building, so you have a 100-year-old building and a 200-year-old landmark that will comprise an absolutely state-of-the-art complex in downtown Harrisburg, in the capital city of Pennsylvania.
What does the restoration project mean to the community?
It transforms those buildings into more of a destination. They are going to have special events and programs in both buildings. It becomes a huge civic resource. Just a few doors away, there is the Art Association of Harrisburg, another landmark on Governor’s Row. It is creating a great critical mass. It was the right thing to do, and The Library is going about it in the right way.