STRATHMERE — Rita Schiavo was a woman who believed in education.
Schiavo earned a master’s degree in education, a law degree and was one of the first women to earn a Doctor of Laws degree from Temple University.
She was instrumental in bringing the D.A.R.E. program to Philadelphia schools and worked to establish a neighborhood public library to replace a South 7th Street Police Station in Philadelphia.
Additionally, she was responsible for Strathmere’s library, which celebrated 10 years of being open during the last week of June.
According to information from the Dr. Rita C. Schiavo Memorial Library, Schiavo bequeathed the resources of her property in Strathmere to the development of a library when she died Sept. 17, 2005. Her namesake library opened a few years after her death, in spring 2009.
Today, the library stands on what was her family’s vacation home.
Melissa Warren, the library’s director, said a building behind the library that was part of Schiavo’s property is rented out to help support the library.
“She loved Strathmere so much, she wanted to give them something of their own because Upper Township, Sea Isle, everyone has their own libraries,” Warren said.
The Schiavo Library is a nonprofit and its members pay a fee. However, Warren said the library is open to anyone and that patrons do not have to be a member to use its resources.
The library is open year-round.
In its 10th summer, the library supported as many as 231 people per day in the last month and has more than 100 people celebrate some of its popular summer programs.
For the library’s 10th birthday, staff celebrated by giving small gifts, such as potted plants or small planters with strawberries or watermelon seeds, to the first 10 patrons each day for one week.
Nonmembers could also join in the fun and enjoy birthday cupcakes. A happy birthday banner was hung outside the library with balloons, patrons wore party hats and there was a birthday card that several people signed.
The library offers programs for children to senior citizens.
At 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, the library offers a children’s storytime, which is followed by a Lego Club. There is also a summer reading program and a drawing contest for children.
The library also offers a Maker Space table for children to do crafts.
Some special summer events include the Wetlands Institute Terrapin Release Program at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 11. For this program, people can learn about terrapins and release hatchlings into the local bay.
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, there will be a screening of a wildlife conservation film.
A bird/nature walk program is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, July 18, and a horseshoe crab program at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 16.
According to Warren, during the bird/nature walk, participants can walk on the beach and learn about piping plovers and local birds nesting nearby. The horseshoe crab program includes a seminar at the library and time for children to draw horseshoe crabs and learn how to flip them over if they are caught on their backs.
Among the library’s August events are a team scavenger hunt, a family bingo night and a raffle drawing for a children’s fun basket.
There are Mahjong classes for adults at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays and the library holds a popular book sale twice per year.
Visitors to the area can also utilize the library’s computers for a small fee.
In addition to its programming and collection of books and DVDs, the library is part art gallery and museum. Currently, the library has the work of three local artists displayed on its walls and the art is rotated.
A display cabinet near the library’s entrance contains memorabilia from as far back as the 1920s that belonged to a family that owned a business in Strathmere.
This exhibit also changes regularly and often features antiques and historical items related to Strathmere.
According to Warren, she often gets feedback from patrons that “they love how cute the library is and it’s a great little find.”
The Rita Schiavo Memorial Library is at 801 Commonwealth Ave. in the Strathmere section of Upper Township. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in July and August. In the off-season, the library is open from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
To learn more about the library, call (609) 486-6265 or visit strathmerelibrary.org.