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Library breaks ground on new location

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Nov 6, 2020

From left, Bob Keller (not pictured), Terry Kramer, Hali Taylor, Mayor Jim Auxer, Linda Shea, Lorena Chambers, Libby Sturm and Rosemarie Nickerson prepare to break ground for the library's new building on Friday morning. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Friday morning, a socially distanced gathering of Shepherdstown community members gathered together for the groundbreaking ceremony of Shepherdstown Public Library’s new location.

According to library director Hali Taylor, prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 Pandemic a few months ago, the library had planned to host a community-wide groundbreaking ceremony. But, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the ceremony had to become an invitation-only event.

“It’s been a long and winding road, and you have been by our side, one way or another,” Taylor said to the event attendees. “Much to our sadness, because of the pandemic, we don’t have room to invite the whole town to this event.”

According to Taylor, the location for the new building might never have been found in 2006, without the help of former Shepherdstown mayor Lance Dom. The site, which had been the location of the town’s landfill, required extensive cleanup to pass local and state safety evaluations, before it could be cleared for construction.

“In the beginning, Mayor Lance Dom told me about this land, and Patrick Kirby helped lead the cleanup of this site,” Taylor said, mentioning current town leadership has continued to help with the project’s development. “Mayor Auxer understands the vision of this place, and has supported us on every step of the way. During this stressful time of political mayhem and pandemonium, our dedicated staff has become even further dedicated to this project.”

Patrick Kirby, left, speaks about the work he has contributed to the library building project as Shepherdstown Public Library Director Hali Taylor looks on, during the groundbreaking on Friday morning. Tabitha Johnston

Dom began working for the library for the past 11 years ago, after completing his term as mayor. According to him, Taylor deserves much of the credit for the project’s development and current progress.

“This has been 20 years in the making! It’s been a long time coming, and it’s taken a lot of willpower to get here! A lot of that willpower came from Hali Taylor and good boards over the years,” Dom said. “It’s going to be five times the size of the current library! The design is for it to serve the northern part of the county — not just Shepherdstown.”

While other libraries throughout the Eastern Panhandle have been able to reopen to the public, with social distancing measures in place, Shepherdstown’s library current location in the Market House is too small to do so. In fact, it has had to restrict its operations to having only two staff members inside of the building at a time, due to state guidelines on social distancing. Currently, the public can request books online or over the phone, and pick them up at the library’s door. Once the library building is completed, it will provide enough room and resources to service between 17,000 and 18,000 local residents, according to Dom.

“This groundbreaking ceremony represents the beginning of a new phase for our library,” said SPL Board of Trustees President Terry Kramer. “These vital services will continue to be offered and amplified.”

Taylor noted that, along with all of the former and current board members, library staff and town representatives, the library has to thank its two community-based financial support groups — the Friends of the Shepherdstown Library and Nourishing Literacy Giving Circle — for the project’s current progress.