Friday, June 27, 2014

Shenandoah Community Library

History of the Shenandoah Community Library

The Shenandoah Community Library, known as the Shenandoah Community Center Library prior to May 26, 1997, was established by the Chairman of the Women’s Club Library Committee, Virginia Melton, who had taught for 30 years at the Shenandoah Elementary School. It was the second branch to be founded in Page County, Virginia. Dorothy Wilson, a friend of Virginia Melton, mailed 70 books to Mrs. Melton from California which was the beginning of a town library in the Shenandoah Community Center. Other book donations followed and a room at the end of the Shenandoah Community Center was dedicated Sept. 10th, 1972 as the library. Facing the front of the Community Center building, the library was on the right end of the building. At its peak operation the room held 5,000 volumes.

The library was staffed by volunteers. Virginia Melton worked at the library for 22 years as the volunteer head librarian. She was the first librarian who cataloged the books for the library. Mrs. Melton was a great believer of the outreach program. She would take books to the shut-ins who could not come to the library, then pick-up and return the books to the library. Before Virginia Melton retired and went to live with her son in Texas, she asked Ruth Reid, an employee of the then Rockingham County Library, to be the caretaker of the Shenandoah Library and keep it established for the Shenandoah Community for future generations.

Virginia Melton passed away three months before the Shenandoah Library in the Town of Shenandoah received a Trust fund of $435,000 from Boston, Massachusetts called the Ann S. Barb Trust fund. This trust fund was established around 1972 and Mrs. Barb’s son Thomas Barb received the interest until his death in 1997. The trust fund money reverted, per his mother’s wish, to the library in the town of Shenandoah. No one is certain who Ann S. Barb was, but research revealed that Ann S. Barb was a cousin of Virginia Melton, the founder of the Shenandoah Library.

On Memorial Day weekend May 26, 1997, a fire destroyed the Shenandoah Community Center (a loss of $300,000) which housed the Shenandoah Community Library containing 5,000 volumes of Shenandoah and Rockingham Public Library books and items. The fire was started by a juvenile, age 16, because he was bored and wanted some excitement during Memorial Day Weekend. Records showed that he was neither a patron of the library nor had he ever visited the library, but he was a student at one time at the Shenandoah School. The court ordered monthly restitution to the library.

The Shenandoah Library moved twice before it moved into the remodeled Farmers and Merchants Bank building on March 18, 1999. The Ann S. Barb money bought the old bank and the land and also paid for the remodeling of the 2400 square feet area. The remainder of the money is in an endowment fund.

The entire Shenandoah community and surrounding areas helped, with the guidance of Massanutten Regional Library, to reestablish the library with donations of pictures, furniture, a circulation desk, books shelves and numerous other items. Many volunteer hours were spent preparing Shenandoah Community Library to serve the patrons of the Shenandoah Area which covers approximately 5,000 people in the town and surrounding Page County. Today, the population is 2,373 people in the town of Shenandoah. The library has its own library board—The Shenandoah Community Library Association. Only one other branch library has a library board, which also is in Page County—the Page Public Library Association.

Today, Shenandoah Library has about 20,000 books, numerous DVDs and audio books, several public use computers, a reading room dedicated to Virginia Melton, and rare local genealogy books. The library also has an Outside Reading area that is used for activities, like Easter Egg Hunts. The staff includes ten volunteers and two staff members—Ruth Reid and Jane Gordon. Ruth has followed Mrs. Melton’s tradition in her dedication to the library and the community it serves. The library is open seventeen hours per week. We hope you visit.

Ruth Reid, Cheryl Metz, Diane Rafuse : June 2014

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