Shippensburg Public Library

Shippensburg, Pennsylvania began as the first settlement in the Cumberland Valley, settled in 1730 by 12 Scots-Irish families.  The land was owned by Edward Shippen (1703 - 1781) of Lancaster, originally a well-known gentleman of Philadelphia.  The land was given to him by the heirs of William Penn, and the town would eventually be named in Shippen's honor.

The town grew along the old Virginia Indian Path (now Rt. 11), which would be renamed King Street by Shippen's son-in-law Col. James Burd, who also directed the construction of the road to Fort Pitt during the French and Indian War.  King Street has seen many historical events in its 275 year history, including a march of Confederate soldiers through the town in 1863, which is reenacted every year.  King Street has also been the site of all the incarnations of the Shippensburg Public Library.

Our library began as the brainchild of Mr. Arthur Burkhart, Sr., who simply loved books and wished to spread that love to others of the community.  He was soon joined by many others, and the Shippensburg Public Library was established on Nov. 7, 1933.  By Jan. 15 of the following year, a portion of a storeroom on West King St. used as a community center by the farm people of the area was partitioned off to become the first physical manifestation of our Library.

Unfortunately, by the summer of that year, that space was no longer available.  After several temporary locations, the library board asked the president of the Western Maryland Railroad if they could use their passenger railroad station on West King Street for the library.  Happily, in 1936 the railroad agreed to lease the station to the library for ten dollars a year!  A library in a railroad station was unusual enough to be written up in Ripley's "Believe it or Not" newspaper column.

It was in this period that the Children's Story Hour program began.  Every week, Mrs. Van Scyoc - the Story Lady - would read to the community's children.  The tradition of story hour, and many more children's programs, continues to this day.

Having outgrown the railroad station, plans were made to buy the home of Dr. George H. Stewart at 73 West King St. from his widow, Mrs. Dorothy Gray Stewart.  This beautiful and historic home was built by Dr. Stewart's father in 1880 in the Victorian style, on the site of the Black Horse Tavern, where George Washington rested while quelling the Whiskey Rebellion. The house was modified by Dr. Stewart in 1936 into its present Georgian Revival form.

The library opened its doors to the community on Dec. 9, 1957.  Since then, there have been many improvements, including a significant addition in 1968 and the removal of the children's library from the basement to a freshly renovated second floor.  Today, there are plans to use Dr. Stewart's offices and consider further additions.  As our community continues to grow, so does our beloved library!  

Our library is a wonderful mix of the old and the new.  Original woodwork and fireplaces can be found only feet from the latest computer stations.  Amish patrons in traditional dress can be found searching the stacks with professors from nearby Shippensburg University.  Elderly patrons and high school teens work side by side at the computers.  Children from hundred-year-old farms excitedly listen to stories seated next to children from modern suburban developments.  The latest library technology blends seamlessly with old-fashioned personal service.

And speaking of service, we have a wonderful, dedicated staff, as well as many volunteers, who keep our library running.  We are especially thankful for our director, who joined the library in June of 2003.  Besides continuing to add to our collection, she has encouraged the development of book groups and author talks, oversees our building projects, and brings sanity to our library.

The crown jewel of our library is our children's program.  Besides the traditional Story Time, we also have Toddler Time, the Summer Reading Program, Super Saturday Family Fun Day, and Family Place.  Family Place is a parenting workshop which brings community parents and professionals together.

In April of 2004, our children's director accepted the Pennsylvania Library Association's Best Practices Award in family programming for her Passport Program.  This program introduces children to world cultures with foods, games, and language lessons, often involving community members who represent the various ethnicities.

The Friends of the Shippensburg Public Library began in April of 2001.  They are dedicated to supporting our library with Friday morning coffee hours, Books for Babies, a library newsletter, used book sales, and a spring tea. Just this last October, the Board of Trustees and the Friends held our fourth successful annual Gala fundraiser.  It's title?

Shippensburg Public Library - The Heart of the Community!