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'A library we love' in Shepherdstown

April 10, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA.

The place has a lot going for it.

Take its history, for example.

The Shepherdstown Public Library is in a building that was built in 1800 as a market house.

The site also served many other purposes early on, including a location for the town council, fire department, a pig pen and a "public whipping post," according to the library's Web site.

Today, it's the location of a thriving library that is literally and figuratively the heart of Shepherdstown, said Hali Taylor, director of the library.

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An estimated 34,000 people a year flock to the library at the intersection of German and King streets for its services and check out about 36,000 materials annually, Taylor said.

The library also offers many children's reading programs and is linked with nine other libraries in the Eastern Panhandle to expand the offerings to its patrons.

Now the library has earned a special recognition in its field.

This year, the library will be featured in the book "Heart of the Community: The Libraries We Love," the first book to sing the praises and show the beauty of America's beloved libraries.

Library reference publisher Berkshire Publishing Group spent four months searching for libraries that are cherished centers of communities, according to a press release about the book.

Hundreds of libraries were considered for inclusion in the book and the local library was one of 80 that made the cut, according to the release.

Taylor said libraries were considered based on e-mails written by patrons of various libraries across the country about their community libraries. The e-mails were sent to a Web site for review, Taylor said.

The book, described as a full-color coffee table book, will be published in October and copies of the 200-page publication will be available at the library and bookstores nationwide, the release said.

The library was informed about the designation last month, and library officials were thrilled, Taylor said.

"I think people really love their libraries in general. I'm not saying this library is loved any more than anyone else's, but it certainly has a quality to it," Taylor said.

After its initial beginning as a market, the building which houses the library was later used by the International Order of Odd Fellows, which built a second level on the building. That is when the "All Seeing Eye," known as the eye of omnipotence, was added to the building and it still remains today.

The white building looks dwarfed by larger buildings that stand at either side of it, and Taylor said although the estimated 2,000 square-foot building is small, it is "very powerful."

By linking with other libraries in the Eastern Panhandle, patrons of the library are able to freely borrow books from nine other libraries in the region, Taylor said.

It takes between one and five days to receive a book from another library and a courier comes twice a week to deliver books, Taylor said.

The Shepherdstown Public Library is an integral part of the town, where people can stop by to find out what's going on in the village, jump on the Internet, pick up tax forms, read newspapers and peruse the estimated 16,500 materials there, Taylor said.

There are 14 programs run by the library, including reading programs for children at various ages. The Friends of the Shepherdstown Library does fundraising for the library.

The Shepherdstown Women's Club started the library in 1922 in the lower level of the building and volunteers ran the library until the early 1970s before it became part of the state's library system, Taylor said.

Across the county, people love their libraries, according to the release announcing the book.

Sixty-two percent of adults in the U.S. have library cards at 16,220 libraries in the country, the release states.

Libraries are not only beloved, they also are important to our way of life, the release said. Since Benjamin Franklin helped to start the first libraries, Americans have used public libraries to get the information they need to enjoy and expand their lives. In fact, 83 percent of Americans believe libraries and librarians play an essential role in our democracy and are needed now more than ever, the release states.

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