The story of the oldest U.S. Army Library in Europe begins in Port-Aux Poules, Algeria, June 1943 with a dayroom collection of 200 books. Special Services Officer 2nd Lieutenant Rodney S. Kepley said,
Those few books served a definite purpose for the unit and were proudly called a library.This “library” was carefully preserved. When the unit moved to Salerno, Italy in April 1944, it went along as one of the items of top priority. The men made it a custom to donate their books received from home, and when the unit was deactivated in July 1944, the collection numbered 400 books.
Lt. Kepley was appointed to General Dever’s Sixth Army Group Headquarters that secretly activated on Corsica. Advancing to Vittel, Special Services inhabited the Casino, which included a library with 4,000 English language titles. Clear title to the books was obtained. Kepley’s library of 4,400 books was the best in the European Theater.
The Rhein was crossed by forward troops. The next location for the Sixth Army Group Headquarters was assured in Heidelberg. Packing and crating the books was accomplished with a minimum of difficulty since the entire headquarters staff, including nine General Officers, considered the library an item of top priority.
In March of 1948 the first new reference books arrived and were added to the collection. A central reference and interlibrary loan service for the European command was established. Miss Evelyn C. Giles, the first Reference Librarian, arrived in 1949. By May 1950, 1,000 patrons were assisted and 150 reference calls were received.
In October 1952, the library’s name was changed to USAREUR Reference Library. In December, it moved to 2 Brückenstrasse, a pre-war TanzCafé-Lounge with large windows overlooking the Neckar River and the Heidelberg Castle.
“The problem of space is solved at least temporarily. As things stand the building now being used as a high school dormitory will be remodeled and the Reference Library will have part of the first floor. It isn't good, but it’s that or nothing,” said Reference Librarian Clara L. Malone.
On 28 November 1955 the USAREUR Reference Library moved to Zengerstrasse 1. It remained at this address for 52 years.
Acting as Command reference and interlibrary loan center for 150 Army libraries in France, Germany, and Italy, transactions for December 1966 were as follows: circulation; 2,500; reference service 80; ILL transactions 700. Number of volumes at the end of the reporting year; 24,710 with 1,603 books added during the year.
In October 1973 the library changed its name to Command Reference Library. A charging machine was installed, eliminating the need for borrowers to sign book cards. In October 1974 Chief Librarian Ruth Mullane visited Iran, which resulted in the establishment of a main library in Tehran.
In 1975 a USAREUR Audio-Cassette program was established. In 1976 the book catalog was printed to include new non-fiction titles added since 1 September 1975. “The book catalog will replace the non-cost effective card catalogs in the USAREUR Libraries.” Publicity Statement.
Chief Librarian Mary E. Lassanyi reported in Stars & Stripes, December 25, 1976 that a “final decision had been made and the library will be able to expand to the second floor, ending a long endured space problem.” The library was renamed USAREUR Library & Resource Center. In July 1979 initial work for a renovation/space trade project with the pre-school, co-occupants of the first floor of the building, was begun.
The Patron-oriented Automated Library System (PALS) was established in November 1983. PALS was operated from the Computer Center in Campbell Barracks, Heidelberg. Its purpose was to automate the collections of 107 military libraries in Europe. Initially 10 Air Force Libraries were included in the program. PALS was to centralize and automate the processing of the 3,000,000 library items borrowed and renewed in USAREUR annually. PALS also would permit the materials for interlibrary loans (ILLs) to be found electronically. Previously the 16,000 yearly ILLs were routed through the USAREUR Library & Resource Center.
In October 1986 the “repair/renovation of building 3796” was approved. Numerous patrons complained that the book collection would not be accessible. The 60,000 circulating books, which were originally to be placed in storage, were moved to the recently vacated Campbell Barracks Bowling Alley. The reference collection, of about 8,000 books, was moved to Patton Barracks.
In December 1995 the library had 17 computers, 2 of which provided patron access to the PALS catalog. In FY 1995 the library had a total collection of 53,163 books and a yearly circulation of 24,273. By June 1997 the total collection was 59,358 books with the library adding an average of 180 books to the collection every month.
In the fall of 1999 PALS was co-located with USAREUR Library & Resource Center (ULRC) in BLDG 3796, Zengerstrasse 1. PALS and the ULRC jointly produced a new USAREUR Library Program Web page that provided online access to CD-ROM databases.
In 2003 the library, PALS and Computer Center were renamed the European Regional Library Support Center. They centrally supported all IMCOM-Europe Libraries with automation, materials, technical services, and subject expertise. In October 2005, ERLSC orchestrated the migration from the Geac integrated library system to Horizon. With this change, all IMCOM-Europe MWR Libraries joined the General Library Information System, which includes MWR Libraries in the United States.
In December 2006, the Army Europe Memorandum stating the regionalization of IMCOM-Europe Library support was published. The European Regional Library Support Center’s role as a central library and support center was recognized. In May 2007 the European Regional Library Support Center moved from the IMCOM-Europe Headquarters building (3796) to a separate building (3654) on the Sickingenstrasse side of Campbell Barracks.