York County libraries offer serendipity – and have done so for decades

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York County libraries are used for more than securing books and videos. Here, Elizabeth Snelbaker, of Warrington township, works with her quilting group in the back room of the Red Land Community Library in this 2003 photo. The group met every Tuesday to do some quilting – an age-old York County pastime – and visit. When finished the quilts are raffled off to raise money for the library. Background posts: Summer reading stack includes local history and From Augustine to Manchester.

Someone who would know told me the Red Land Community Library has a richer-than-usual supply of books on tape.
That’s because truckers stop by the modern-looking library in view of Interstate 83 near the Newberry Commons Shopping Center.
The library’s parking lot, adjoining a Maple Donuts, is large enough to accommodate trucks.
My informant was correct… .


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The library had a deep supply of books on tape, literally books on cassettes. Its CD collection wasn’t as unusually large, but that’s understandable if you’ve ever looked at the high price of books on CD at a retailer. (Does that mean trucks still are equipped with CD players?)
This was not the first time I’ve been at the Red Land library, part of the York County Library System. I had been there in 2002 as part of the “Nine Months in York Town” observance. A lecturer from York College compared the Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution as part of festivities marking the 225th anniversary of the adoption of the Articles in York.
But I’m on a campaign to visit all of the libraries in York County and going to the various sites is more fun than ordering books on tape from the Web catalog and then picking them up. I’ve done that, and the taped books are delivered within days.
The fun of browsing at libraries is that you run across interesting titles that you wouldn’t have ordered via Web catalog.
I use books on tape – as opposed to books – to explore topics and authors I wouldn’t have time to fit into my stack.
The serendipity of finding a previous unknown author at an obscure corner of the Red Land library is delightful.
Such a find at Red Land was Erskine Caldwell’s “God’s Little Acre.” I’m working through major Southern writers, and I hadn’t become acquainted with his writing up to that point.
York countians experienced similar moments of serendipity via lending libraries as far back as 1817.
According to my “Never to be Forgotten,” that was when Jacob Wiestling organized 81 people in Hanover to form a subscription library. Years later, Henry Wirt Jr. discovered records on the Wiestling library. “When we consider the small population of the town, hardly 1,000; and also the fact that outside those in the professions, very few people spoke or understood English, we are surprised at the extent of the library and the character of the books.” The library contained more than 300 books.
York didn’t have a consistent public library until 1935, when Martin opened. Reporters covering the Hex murder trial six years before had pointed out that York lacked a public library, implying that the lack of such a facility fostered superstitious thinking.
Oh yes, my other Red Land acquisitions were an eclectic: Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe,” P.G. Wodehouse’s “Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen,” and Jack Kerouac’s “Visions of Cody.”

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.

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