History of the Stroudsburg Library
Public library when it was located in the Stroud Mansion, circa 1940.
By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association
Founding father Benjamin Franklin has many credits to his name: inventor, scientist, author, diplomat, and philosopher. He is also credited with establishing the first library in America. On July 1, 1731, he and other members of the Junto Society, drafted a charter to create a library in Philadelphia. By 1740, other American cities formed libraries. Over the years, both book collections and library patrons grew in number, and Franklin’s Library Company of Philadelphia found its permanent home January 1, 1791.
A little over 100 years after the founding of Franklin’s library, and closely following Franklin’s model, 20 well-known Stroudsburg citizens gathered to create the Stroudsburg Library Company. Individuals such as Stogdell Stokes, Charles Vail, Morris Robeson, James Rees, D.S. Hollinshead, Aaron Croasdale, William Walton, J.H. Stroud, Isaac Burson, and J.S. Kerr (as well as nine others) signed their names to a document in 1832 to establish a library.
Articles of agreement establishing the Stroudsburg Library Company, signed in 1832.
According to this document, the building was to be located at the corner of Main and 8th Streets in Stroudsburg and have an advisory board of directors. This board of directors was to hold regular meetings but “at no time and on no account, in a tavern.” Books to be placed in the library were to be approved by the board, and books with immoral or anti-Christian themes were “forever prohibited.”
Although it housed over 1,300 titles of books, by 1883, the library had fallen into disuse and was abandoned. In the early 1900s, interest was once again raised to have a free library in Stroudsburg. This interest came from the Pennsylvania Free Library Commission, who sent Robert Biles to Stroudsburg. Biles toured Stroudsburg and worked to gain support from the community. The State offered 50 free books (25 fiction and 25 on history and travel) plus $1 to help pay for transporting each book. Twelve signatures were needed for the petition, but no one in Stroudsburg embraced the State’s offer.
It wasn’t until 1915 when Blanche Carmer made an organized and constant effort to establish a library. She presented a plan to the Stroudsburg Civic Club (now known as the Woman’s Club of the Stroudsburgs) on October 25, 1915 detailing an offer from the New Century Club of Philadelphia. The New Century Club of Philadelphia would supply 100 books under the condition that an organization would be responsible to replace lost books. The Civic Club agreed, and on January 17, 1916, a small room in the Reformed Church on 8th Street, Stroudsburg, was opened as a library. Interestingly, only 99 books were received, and 60 library cards were issued.
Over the next year, the members of the Civic Club held various fundraisers for the library including bake sales, card parties, rummage sales, and plays. By November 1917, the library had become popular and outgrew its space in the church. Mrs. Pugh, who lived next to the Stroudsburg Methodist Church on Main Street, offered the library space in her home. While Mrs. Pugh’s home offered additional space, it became evident that this was a temporary solution.
In 1920, the Civic Club purchased the Stroud Mansion for $15,000. During this time period, the Stroud Mansion was no longer used as a residence, and the building was purchased to be a community center and meeting place. By December 1920, the Stroud Mansion housed the Public Library and the Monroe County Historical Society.
Blanch Carmer, who first approached the Civic Club in 1915, remained active in the library until she died suddenly in 1936 at age 67. According to her obituary, Ms. Carmer, “had been the librarian of the Stroudsburg public library and devoted her untiring efforts to building up the library and it was due to her constant work and unceasing labors that it became a large institution.” With the passing of Ms. Carmer, the board of the Civic Club hired Elizabeth Kane as the new librarian.
The public library continued to grow while it was located in the Stroud Mansion. Additional space and funding continued to be a constant challenge for the library. Two of the five first-floor rooms in the Stroud Mansion were dedicated to the library. Needing more space, the children’s book department was moved to the addition portion of the Stroud Mansion in 1943.
The public library’s bookmobile was purchased in 1941; the cost was split between the Monroe County Commissioners and the members of the Kiwanis Club. During the Flood of 1955, the bookmobile was destroyed; the Kiwanis Club purchased a new bookmobile and presented it to the library on February 16, 1956.
With the recurring theme of additional space being needed for books, the library was given a generous gift by Howard L. Keiper, owner of Keiper’s Laundry. In 1948, Keiper approached the library with an offer to move the library from the two rooms in the Stroud Manion to his home at 913 Main Street. The library would be located on the entire first floor of the home and he would live in an apartment on the second floor during his lifetime. The deed to the Keiper property was presented to the library on June 2, 1948 as a memorial to Keiper’s wife, Johanna. On December 15, 1954, after extensive renovations, the new home of the library was dedicated.
The Eastern Monroe Public Library was located at 913 Main Street for years until it moved to its current location in 1996. After purchasing the property at the corner of Chipperfield Drive and 9th Streets, Stroudsburg (formerly the Stroud Jewelry and Distributors) the library moved for the first time to a modern and accessible building where thousands of Monroe County residents and visitors have access to a variety of information sources.
One hundred and seventy-seven years ago, the founding citizens of Monroe County recognized the importance of a public gathering place to exchange information and to gain knowledge. Although there have been challenges, this quality of life institution continues to be a strong and influential fixture in Monroe County’s landscape.
The Libraries of Monroe County:
Barrett Paradise Friendly Library, Cresco
Clymer Library, Pocono Pines
Eastern Monroe Public Library, Stroudsburg
- Hughes Library, Stroudsburg
- Pocono Township Branch, Tannersville
- Smithfields Branch, Marshalls Creek
Elizabeth D. Walters Research Library – Stroudsburg (Monroe County Historical Association)
Pocono Mountain Public Library, Tobyhanna
Western Pocono Community Library, Brodheadsville