The idea for a library in the community of Selbyville, Delaware was conceived in 1931. With the delivery of 22 books from the State Traveling Library to Mrs. Inge Tubbs, President of the Selbyville Community Club, the library was born on April 21, 1932. Originally set up in the club room of Redman's Hall; Club members volunteered to run the library every Friday afternoon from 4 to 5 PM. The Selbyville Free Public Library began on February 19, 1939 after the club raised $225.00 over a five-year period, which allowed them to qualify for state aid and to purchase 1,000 volumes. The library moved in the late 1940s to the Sunday school room of the Salem Methodist Church. The library's current location in the former home of Senator John G. Townsend, Jr., became available in 1966. The original house was built in 1906 and was donated to the Trustees of the library by Senator Townsend's family after his death in 1964. An addition, which currently houses the adult literature and reference collections, was dedicated in 1990. In spring, the library joined the Sussex County Delaware Hollinet System, which allows library cardholders to access library catalogs throughout the state and to conduct research on the Internet.
Dr. Asher & Pauline Carey donated property to the library and the funds from the resulting sale plus money donated by the community was used for an addition. On June 19, 2004, State Senator George H. Bunting dedicated the Dr. Asher & Pauline Carey Wing. The wing holds the library's juvenile and young adult collections, a quiet study room, a children's activity room, offices for the Director and Youth Services Librarian. The original Townsend House contains Senator Townsend's office, maintained as a small museum as well as the periodical reading room. Additionally, the Townsend House also is site of the Sunroom, a facility that can hold up to 30 people for presentations, meetings and events.
The Friends of the Selbyville Public Library support the many needs of the library. Over their history, they have supported the children's programs, purchased shelving, a 25" TV for educational video presentations and sponsored various reading groups. Annually, the Friends operate the children's activities at Selbyville Old Timers Day and the Haunted Library on Halloween.
John G. Townsend and His House
Constructed in 1904, this was once the residence of John G. Townsend, Jr. (1871-1964), agricultural pioneer and statesman. His long and distinguished public career included service as Governor of Delaware (1917-21), United States Senator (1929-1941), and member of the delegation to the first session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. As Governor, he fought for the much-needed reform and modernization of the state’s education and transportation systems. While serving in the Senate, he was an architect of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and other New Deal-era programs that reformed and rebuilt the nation’s banking industry. A business leader of great vision and accomplishment, he was a successful lumberman, farmer, strawberry broker, orchardist, canner, banker, and contractor. He was one of the pioneers of the Delmarva poultry industry. Townsend’s personal magnetism resulted in many friendships, and persons from all walks of life came here to visit him. Notable visitors included former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and future President Richard Nixon. Following his death, the Townsend family donated his home to the Selbyville Public Library.*
Outline of the Life of John G. Townsend, Jr.
1872 - Born near Bishopville, Maryland
1894 - Moved to Selbyville with his wife and children
1902-1903 - Delaware State Representative from Baltimore Hundred
1904 - Moved into home at Main and McCabe Streets. John G. had one of the first telephones in Sussex County
1904 - Alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention
1911-1916 - Helped in the development of the DuPont Highway (Route 113)
1913 - Supprted establishment of Women's College in Newark
1915 - Establish J.G. Townsend, Jr. & Co. cannery at Hoosier Street and railroad - one of dozens of companies he was involved in starting, e.g., Selbyville Manufacturing, etc.
1916 - Runs and is elected for governor on Progressive (a breakaway Republican group) amd Prohibition Parties tickets. It is the first time a Republican was elected governor without the strong support of the regular party organization
1917-1921 - Governor of Delaware; first and only Progressive Party governor; strong advocate of educational reform
1917-1918 - Led Delaware in accepting Prohibtion
1917 - Mrs. Jennie Townsend, the First Lady of Delaware, dies in a car accident in Dagsboro in late fall returning from Newark, Delaware
1920 - Led fight to approve the Women's Sufferage Amdendment - the amendment was defeated in Delaware but approved nationally
1928-1940 - Served as a Republican Senator from Delaware
1946 - Appointed as an alternate delegate to the first General Assembly of the United Nations in London with Eleanor Roosevelt
1946 June - Eleanor Roosevelt visits Selbyville and has dinner with Townsend at the house
1960 - Attended his last Republican National Convention as a delegate from Delaware
1957 - Celebrated his 86th birthday with many dignitaries in attendance including Vice President Richard Nixon
1964 - Died at age 92
* From the Delaware Public Archives marker on Main Street in front of the library.