Frank Q. Helms, 73, of Cochranville, former director of library services for West Chester University, died of metastatic melanoma Saturday, Nov. 20, at his home.

During his 36 years at the university, Mr. Helms oversaw significant expansion of the library, and was active in a number of college and statewide higher-education organizations.

He was born in Wilmington and graduated from Wilmington High School in 1955. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Delaware in 1959 and a master's degree in library science from Rutgers University in 1961.

He served in the Delaware Air National Guard for the next 20 years before retiring as a major.

Mr. Helms first worked as the agricultural librarian at the University of Delaware. In 1964, he returned to Rutgers to work toward a doctorate, but halted his studies in 1966 to become director of library services at West Chester.

While there, he twice chaired the State System of Higher Education Library Council, and was instrumental in founding the Keystone Library Network, which provides library automation and purchasing services for 14 university members and others.

At West Chester, he was chairman of the Frederick Douglass Institute and cochair of the college's Task Force for Alumni Relations and University Millennium Committee.

In 2002, he retired and was named a professor emeritus. He was lauded at the time for keeping the library "on the cutting edge," said his former wife, Judith Shaw. He also received the Distinguished Service Award of the Pennsylvania Library Association.

Mr. Helms met his wife on a blind date. The two married in 1963 and divorced in 1993 but stayed friends. She helped take care of him before his death.

After retiring, Mr. Helms, a longtime antiques collector, made a business of selling antiques at the Chadds Ford Antique Mall.

"He was known for his eye for unusual things," Shaw said. "Folk art, Native American crafts and baskets - he would take them home and find a place for them."

He started a children's reading club under the aegis of the West Chester Rotary Club, and when he became ill, he received many cards from his little readers, Shaw said. He enjoyed movies, museums, and plays.

In addition to his former wife, he is survived by sons Colin and Eric, two grandchildren, a brother, and a sister.

A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, in the Philips Autograph Library, Philips Memorial Building, West Chester University.

Memorial donations may be made to the Melanoma Research Foundation, 1411 K St. N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20005.

Contact staff writer Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.