Mrs. Francis Baker returned home from a meeting of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, held in Erie, PA in October 1923, with the determination that Everett should have a library. Mrs. Baker was an 1881 graduate of Juniata College, school teacher and business secretary. She was the mother of five children and was concerned about the lack of reading resources available to young folks of the community. She enlisted the aid of her friends, including Martha Karns and Ma (Mrs. W.P.S.) Henry. Together, they obtained permission from the Everett Bank to use a room on the second floor of its building, and organized the Everett Free Library Association.
Anyone who contributed money or services was eligible to become a member of the association. The first association meeting was held November 27, 1923 in the Methodist Church. 182 members are listed in the minutes of that meeting. Members included the Baker family, school teachers, ministers, merchants, bankers, farmers, and other interested citizens. Many of their descendants are still supporting the library.
Mrs. Baker was elected the first president of the organization and held that position until 1934. Mrs. W.P.S. (Ma) Henry, Mrs. Baker’s friend and beloved high school teacher, was elected vice-president. Other officers were Mrs. John Herman, Edward E. Terpening and Robert H. Kay. Mrs. Eliza Barndollar was made chairman of the service committee and served faithfully in that post until 1944.
Librarians from the State Library at Harrisburg helped to organize the library and catalog the first 1678 books. The first record of expenditures was $400 for books, $100 for furnishings and $50 for supplies. The library opened its doors at The Everett Bank on February 5, 1924. Patrons were able to borrow one book each visit during the four hours per week the library was open. Later, several additional rooms were used at the bank, at a small rental.
In 1962 (the year the library was incorporated), the library needed room to expand. Everett Mayor W. Chester Karns and his wife, Martha, offered a gift of the historical Peebles home at 212 East Main Street to become a home for the library. Mrs. Karns was Trustee and volunteer at the library.
The deed was finalized March 30, 1964. The building was renovated and, in October 1964, the town united to move 8,000 books and supplies and furniture across Main Street to the new library one block away. Trustees and volunteers were elated with the extra space of six rooms and a basement. Circulation and activities increased.
When the library celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1973, it was offering a 12,000 book inventory, magazines, stereo records and newspapers and films. There were preschool age programs, story hours, and exhibits. Publicity was provided through weekly commentators on radio station WSKE and a column in the Press. The library was now open several hours each day, six days a week for an average of 26 hours weekly.
At this time the library was spending $1900 for staff costs, $1200 for books and materials, and $1100 for other operating costs. Library services were extended to Everett Borough and the surrounding townships of West Providence, East Providence, Hopewell, Monroe and Snake Spring. The library was associated with the district library in Altoona and had unlimited access to books through interlibrary loan. Service was also provided to home-bound patrons with “books-by-mail”.
The Baker family was still involved. After retiring from teaching, Margaret Baker, the daughter of Mrs. Francis (Jennie Calhoun) Baker, served as president of the Board of Trustees from 1961 to 1964.
For many years she supervised volunteers and staff meetings, ordered books, was correspondent and active on the book purchasing committee–all without compensation.
Library space became cramped again and Mrs. Francis Baker’s son, Dr. John C. Baker, encouraged the trustees to investigate possible larger quarters. A gift of $85,000 from Dr. Baker, his wife, Elizabeth Evans Baker, and their three daughters, Elizabeth Baker, Anne Baker, and Eleanor Baker Steindler enabled the library to purchase the present building located at 137 East Main Street in 1987. The community raised $60,000 in the capital fund drive in addition to the Bakers’ gift. This permitted the Board to purchase shelving, cabinets, desks, and other items needed in the larger home. The building at 212 E. Main Street was sold, with proceeds going to the library.
The main building, built in 1863 by Jacob Barndollar Williams (1835-1891) and his wife, Martha J. Williams, was known as the “Gift House” when the library purchased it from Donald and Geri Horton. Williams was a businessman and landowner who operated a hardware store and organized the Everett Iron Co. and The Everett Glass Works. Later, the building was the home of Dr. William Nycum and son, Dr. John W. Nycum. Everett Cash Mutual Insurance Co. owned the building for several years prior to the Horton’s.
The library was rededicated on October 11, 1987. The building was named the Jennie C. Baker House, in memory of the library’s founder.
The Pennsylvania Room (located in the modular addition attached to the main building) contained local historical materials, microfilm, maps and reference. The modular also contained a microfilm room, the librarian’s office and a workroom. A winding staircase and a back stairway in the main building led to a lounge, a children’s room and to the Peace Room. The Peace Room, named in honor of Dr. John Baker’s vital interest in promoting peace, was used as a reading and meeting room. The first floor of the main building had a foyer, containing the card catalog, and was decorated by a Spanish crystal chandelier. The first room, leading from the foyer, housed the fiction collection. This was the location of the circulation desk also. The second room on the first floor contained the nonfiction collection, oversized books, and periodicals.
In 1987, the library had 3,595 patrons registered. There was an inventory of 12,000 books. The library had joined the Bedford County Federated Library System in 1982. The library’s service area now consisted of the Borough of Everett and the Townships of West Providence, East Providence, Mann, Monroe, Hopewell, Southampton and Snake Spring. An operating and capital budget of $51,215 was announced for 1998.
Major changes began to take place. The library started to use a computer to print out catalog cards; then in 1991, the library joined ACCESS PA. This allowed the library to search the holdings of libraries across the state through the use of a CD-ROM project. In 1992, the library became the first public library in the county to automate circulation and, in 1995, it became the first to integrate circulation and holdings with an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog). Internet access was given to patrons in November of 1996, although staff had been using the Internet to access the District library’s catalog in Altoona before this. Grants enabled the library to purchase most of the new technology.
In 1994, the Board of Trustees began investigating the possibility of replacing the modular at the rear of the library with a larger, permanent structure. The library was not handicapped accessible, the demand for space had increased steadily, and the modular was leaking. In 1996, the library received word that its Keystone grant application had been accepted. This was a matching grant of $126,000 to replace the modular. A capital fund drive was begun and construction began in June 1998 for the 47’x80′ addition.
Through the dedicated efforts of many people, the library has become one of the most important resources of the community. The community gives generously to the yearly fund drive. The Board of Trustees also sponsors an annual dinner/silent auction which many community members attend or donate to. Although the library receives State and County money through the Bedford County Federated Library System, the library still must raise income from local sources. The library is also grateful for grant opportunities.
Today, the library houses a collection of about 28,000 titles. The new addition houses most of this collection and the library is handicapped accessible. A private donation has provided the Elsie May Colvin Children’s Corner. Thanks to a donation by Dr. John C. Baker, the previous reading room has become the Robert C. Baker Technology Room, in memory of his brother. Internet access has increased for patrons. In 2003 the library added a wireless network. The library now has 8 desktop computers for use by the public. Popular computer resources offered are POWER LIBRARY, giving access to thousands of searchable periodicals and databases. The microfilm Reader/Printer/Scanner purchased with a private donation and a grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies is also located in the Technology Room. In 2014 the library made adjustments in order to add a room for tweens and teens. The Helen Sipes Young Adult Den has 2 computers, 3 café table and chair sets, a 4-chair round table set, and books for this age group. The Helen Sipes Young Adult Den was made possible by a bequest from Helen Sipes’s will and a grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. A Krayon Kiosk equipped with 2 IPads loaded with children’s learning games resides in the children’s section. It was purchased in 2015 with a bequest from George Edward Robinette and a grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.