Through many incarnations, Schlow Library has always been an important community resource

This is part of a weekly series that highlights the organizations or people behind one of the Foundation’s funds.

Libraries bring to mind images of people doing research projects or quietly reading in a corner, but they’ve become much more than that.

Though loaning books is still an important part of what the Schlow Centre Region Library does, its director, Cathy Alloway says that libraries are also important resources for people who want Internet access.

“The major role that we play is providing materials that people can loan for no charge, and a lot of free downloadable things like e-books and music, but the other major role that we play is in providing free Internet computing services for the public,” Alloway said.

And though you’re likely to get angry stares (or worse) from employees if you walk into a business and try to use their Wi-Fi without buying something,  library patrons aren’t expected to give anything in return for using the Wi-Fi.

And the number of people using that service has grown by leaps and bounds in a short amount of time, Alloway said, increasing from 100 to 200 a week a few years ago to 600 to 650 a week now, causing the overall number of people who use the library annually to go up as well.

“We are estimating this year that we will have 450,000 visitors,” Alloway said. “We get about 1200 people a day. That’s more than a lot of stores at the mall get in a day.”

Undoubtedly, those number will continue to increase. That’s why we at the Centre County Community Foundation have partnered with Schlow Centre Region Library in a variety of ways, from a project that will bring high speed Internet access to Schlow and other public libraries in the county, to sponsoring last week’s Community Information Technology Workshop, at which dozens of local non-profit administrators learned about the benefits that non-profits can reap from utilizing social media.

We also have six funds that support Schlow Library – the Schlow Library Endowment Fund, which was created by the library itself out of the memorial funds of Sara Light Hays, Thelma Kaufman, and Kenneth F. Barber; and five funds (the Helen G. Oldham Schlow Memorial Library Fund, the Mattil Family Fund, the Ralph and Elizabeth Yeager – Schlow Centre Region Library Fund, the Richard H. Lear Fund and the Sylvia Stein Memorial/Schlow Library Endowment Fund) set up by other Centre County residents who wanted to ensure that the library would always be able to serve people in the future.

Alloway said the money is used for general needs of the library, though some of it is earmarked specifically for the children’s department, non-fiction books, large-print materials or other special interests.

Becoming an important Internet hub is just the most recent of many changes that have happened to the library during its more than 50 year history, according to Alloway. At the beginning, local businesses contributed materials and labor to renovate two rooms in a house at 222 W. College Avenue that businessman Charles Schlow owned. The first incarnation of Schlow Library, then called the State College Public Library, opened in that location on January 17, 1957.

It grew to four rooms, and in 1966 the library moved into its current location, which previously housed a post office, on Beaver and Allen. In 2004, it was relocated to the former Borough Building on Fraser Street while a new, larger library was rebuilt on an enlarged Allen and Beaver site. And on October 3, 2005, the current Schlow Centre Region Library opened at 211 South Allen Street.

When Alloway, who has been the director of Schlow for about a year and a half, saw that the library was looking for a new director, she jumped at the chance to be part of such well-regarded, important community institution.

“I didn’t hesite,” she said. “The minute I saw that job ad I got my resume fired off.”

Alloway’s road to becoming director began more than 30 years ago when she started to shelve books while attending high school in Michigan. She said she enjoys her job because of the positive impact of the library on the community.

“At the end of the day I feel like I’ve helped people,” Alloway said. “It’s about helping people.”

-Erin

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