Swaney library marks 60 years

NEW CUMBERLAND – A center of reading and learning, libraries have stood for centuries as the focal point of many communities.

On Sunday, one such focal point celebrated a milestone in its history as the community came together to mark the 60th anniversary of Swaney Memorial Library in New Cumberland.

The library, located at 210 South Court St., held an open house for the community Sunday, with many residents, members of the library board and others in attendance to assist in the celebration.

It was named in memory of Dr. Charles Swaney, a resident of New Cumberland who died in December 1950.

“When he passed away, he left in his will the property for the library,” librarian Anna Raines explained, noting Swaney also provided money for the library’s construction and the establishment of a trust fund.

The library was officially dedicated April 29, 1954, with accounts from the time reporting more than 500 area residents in attendance for the ceremony. Hilda Nordvold would be the first librarian. The first book gifted to the library was a Bible presented in memory of Esther Williamson, who had served as deputy clerk of the circuit court. The Bible remains on display, along with other artifacts pertinent to the building’s history.

On display Sunday were albums of photographs, letters and newspaper clippings from throughout the library’s history, including correspondence from its earliest years between the founding board members and the U.S. Library of Congress.

“I’ve tried to preserve as much of it as I could find,” Raines said.

According to information provided by Raines, the architect for the building was Ray Shaw, and its cornerstone holds a copy of the Bible, a copy of Swaney’s will, a copy of the contracts for the library’s development and construction and copies of several local newspapers.

The interior features a mural depicting historical New Cumberland painted by J. Robert Haworth, who had once been an art teacher at Weir High School.

Its original trustees were Ralph Powell, Cecil Jones, C.D. Henderson and Leslie Cuppy. The current board includes Elizabeth Wells, Helen Kirpan, Mary Dean Jones, Bonnie Burskey and Pam Briscoe.

Today, the Swaney Memorial Library has a collection of more than 12,000 books, audio books, movies and periodicals. It also provides public computer access, free notary services, copy and fax services and meeting rooms. Story hour is provided in the spring and fall, along with a summer reading program and various activities for local youth.

The Swaney Memorial Library is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

For more information, call (304) 564-3471.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)