Midtown Scholar Bookstore-Cafe
Award-winning Independent Booksellers | Since 2001

About us


history & Mission


"Every Booklover Should Visit"

"In 2001, when Catherine Lawrence and husband Eric Papenfuse (now Mayor Papenfuse) opened The Midtown Scholar Bookstore, more than a few residents of Harrisburg’s Midtown neighborhood raised their eyebrows. ... But by 2009, the store had become a major catalyst for change in the neighborhood and had moved from an old post office into a series of interconnected buildings, one of them a 1920s-era cinema. Today, The Midtown Scholar has become a veritable marketplace of ideas, an exceptional bookstore with a coffee bar to boot. Come for the literature, stay for the conversation."

Carson VAUGHAN, Travel + Leisure, January 27, 2017


C-sPaN Interview for BOOK TV

VIDEO TOUR with the owners, October 18, 2016


A Community Gathering Place

"By all accounts, the Midtown Scholar has had a tremendous impact on this neighborhood.  But just how did this remarkable bookstore end up here?

The story begins at Yale University where two bookworm academics met as graduate students.  He was Eric Papenfuse, studying American history. She was Catherine Lawrence, studying British history.  Sparks flew when they discovered their mutual love of books.

... 'We believe books transform,' says Lawrence. 'Ideas change people's minds and affect people's directions and sensibilities - tie people together or fracture them apart - and so, books transform.'         

The vision of Mayor Eric Papenfuse and Catherine Lawrence for a bookstore called the Midtown Scholar has also had a transforming role, helping change the face of the community where it is located."  

Cary Burkett, "Making and Re-Making Midtown," WITF-FM Radio Interview, October 15, 2015



"Worth The Trip"

A road trip, clearly, was called for. I tend to ask myself, in moments of indecision, not what Charlie Sheen would do, but what Willie Nelson or Christopher Hitchens would do. [....] From there we headed, the next morning, two hours south to Harrisburg to visit (for the Hitchens aspect of the trip) the palatial Midtown Scholar used bookstore, one of America’s largest academic used bookstores. A visit here is an essentially religious experience. Vaut le voyage, as the Michelin guides like to say.”

Dwight Garner, New York Times, December 22, 2013


At The Last Great Book Sale

"Eric Papenfuse and his wife, Catherine Lawrence, who run Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Pa., hoped to go home with about 30,000 books. Citing Harrisburg’s profound financial troubles and its potential to become a 'ghost town,' Mr. Papenfuse called Mr. McMurtry an inspiration.

'Archer City is the story of trying to revitalize a town,' he said. 'We’re looking to take Larry’s model and bring it to Pennsylvania.'

John Williams, New York Times, August 13, 2012


Bookstore photo tour

"Harrisburg has recently added another indie bookstore jewel to its crown. The Midtown Scholar is a cavernous space filled with some 100,000+ second-hand, out-of-print, and scholarly (…) books. As if that’s not large enough to be impressive, consider that if you combine the books housed on this store’s six levels of retail space with what’s also stored in its warehouses, you’re looking at 1 million volumes, all of them listed in the store’s computerized database, making this 'the largest used book collection between New York City and Chicago,' according to one recent article. (Yowza!)”

Alison Morris, Publishers Weekly ShelfTalker, February 12, 2010