Collecting Delaware Books

A. Leslie Calloway Delmarva Collection
at the Corbit-Calloway Memorial Library

by Mary McNeeley

delmarva room scene
Scene in the room housing the Delmarva Collection

Within the public library in Odessa a visitor will find a special collection known as the A. Leslie Calloway Delmarva Collection. Mrs. Calloway (1905 -1993) bequeathed monies for the library to maintain this collection which documents the rich cultural heritage of the Delmarva Peninsula. Today the collection features more than 9,000 books, maps, postcards, pottery, ephemera, and framed artifacts. Anyone doing research on Delaware and Eastern Shore families, their businesses, churches, schools, or clubs will find treasures here. The Collection also features biographies of distinguished individuals who hail from the region and published works of literature by local authors.

Founded in 1847 when Dr. James Corbit, a young physician, willed a five percent Pennsylvania state stock certificate and two railroad certificates to the trustees of the district school in Cantwell's Bridge, the library opened its doors the following year and became one of the first free lending libraries in the Middle Atlantic States. Since that time the library has continued to serve the people of Odessa and the surrounding area, albeit from different locations in town. After a fire in the original building, the library moved to the parlor of the David Wilson Mansion in 1924, and soon it outgrew the space. In 1937 Daniel Corbit had a second parlor wing added for the use of the library. The fireplace mantel and paneling were moved from that wing and now furnish the Delaware Room in the present library building, opened at 2nd & High Streets in 1968.

Today the Corbit-Calloway Memorial Library functions as an independent non-profit institution with a five-member governing Board of Trustees. It is a “contractual library” member of the New Castle County Library System, receiving a share of operating funds pursuant to an annually renewable contract. Additional operating revenue comes from the Division of Libraries in the form of an annual non-competitive grant requiring that the library meet specified performance standards. The library relies upon fundraising to supplement its book budget and to maintain and improve its building.

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