Good Life

Schlow prepares to celebrate 60 years in downtown State College

Schlow Centre Region Library is celebrating its 60th anniversary. The library will be hosting its community open house and the summer reading kick-off party on Saturday.
Schlow Centre Region Library is celebrating its 60th anniversary. The library will be hosting its community open house and the summer reading kick-off party on Saturday. psheehan@centredaily.com

On Oct. 5, 1956, the CDT reported that local businessman Charles Schlow had donated two rooms in a house at 222 W. College Ave. to the State College Library Committee.

In newsprint, at least, the rationale behind the man’s largesse was pretty cut and dry, rooted in his steadfast belief that “this town really needs a public library.”

Simple, sure — but six decades later it still holds up.

From June 2 to 3, Schlow Centre Region Library will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a community open house, the summer reading kickoff party and some nostalgia to boot.

Heather Ricker-Gilbert, a Schlow Foundation board member, said that the celebration is also an opportunity to re-examine what life was like in State College circa 1957, when books were a little bit less — well, downloadable — than they are now.

“The high school library was open two nights a week. You could go there and that’s about it,” Ricker-Gilbert said.

As a little girl, she used to walk from her mother’s office in the Sparks Building to Penn State’s Pattee Library, where the staff maintained a small collection of children’s books.

Ricker-Gilbert believes that the advent of Schlow Memorial Library — named for its benefactor’s late wife and son — centralized access to reading material amid the hustle and bustle of downtown State College.

“We need to encourage literacy and the library does that,” Ricker-Gilbert said.

It has also provided Nathaniel Rasmussen with steady employment since 1993, when a summer work program became the unlikeliest of springboards for a high-ranking career in IT services.

Rasmussen hopped aboard the payroll back when Schlow was still stationed in the former State College Post Office. The old-model library cards, fashioned from manila cardstock and a metal strip, were about to become the victim of progress, replaced by something sleeker or shinier.

Today, patrons just use an app on their phone.

“When I started, our VHS collection was kept under a locked desk because they were really valuable and people loved them,” Rasmussen said.

Now, hearts beat only for Wi-Fi. More than 20 sessions per hour are initiated inside the walls of Schlow — where, coincidentally, you can also find out a thing or two about 3-D printing or browse a collection of e-books.

Rasmussen said that the purpose of the library has remained more or less the same.

“I think what we do hasn’t changed that much in terms of putting what people want in their hands,” Rasmussen said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

If you go

What: Mid-Century Memories panel with Lee Stout, Galen Dreibelbis, Thomazine Weinstein Shanahan and Linda Chambers Domin

When: 7-8:30 p.m., June 2

Where: Schlow Centre Region Library, 211 South Allen St., State College

If you go

What: Community open house

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., June 3

Where: Schlow Centre Region Library, 211 South Allen St., State College

If you go

What: Summer Reading Program kickoff

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., June 3

Where: Schlow Centre Region Library, 211 South Allen St., State College

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