Allegany County Library System, 50th Anniversary, 1960-2010
Libraries have a long history in Allegany County, Maryland. The Mechanics Circulating Library was established in Cumberland in 1838. With 300 books, the library made, at a reasonable rental, novels, biographies, and histories available to the public. An act for the incorporation of the Mechanics Circulating Library Society of Cumberland passed the Maryland General Assembly in 1840. There are reports of subscription libraries in Mount Savage, Barton, Westernport and other towns in the county.
The first free library was established in 1924 in Cumberland, on Greene Street, in a building previously used as the City Water Works. Mary Walsh, formerly a teacher, was hired as the Librarian. At the celebration to mark the opening of Cumberland's Free Public Library, there were 1650 books available. Miss Walsh began her famous "Story Hour" on Christmas Eve 1924.
In 1931 the South Cumberland branch was established on the second floor of Pennsylvania Avenue School. The City Council included $2000 in the municipal budget for that purpose.
Westernport began a collection of books in 1924 when Mrs. Engle, then President of the Westernport and Luke Civic Club requested donations. When 100 books were available, a library opened on the 2nd floor of the City Building.
LaVale library was opened in the Rexall Drug Store by the Century Club in 1953, and two years later moved to the former State Police Barracks.
Frostburg library was organized by the Frostburg-George's Creek Branch of the American Association of University Women, who with community support opened Frostburg's first community library in 1955.
The newest of Allegany County’s libraries is the George’s Creek Regional Library located along the Creek in Lonaconing. It opened in 2001, after much hard work by the community.
The bookmobile has served the county since 1961, visiting senior and day care centers, schools, and neighborhoods.
The Allegany County Library System came into being in July 1960, taking over the management of all Allegany public libraries. In 1945, the Maryland General Assembly had passed the Public Library Act of Maryland. This provided for State Aid to libraries giving free county-wide services and established the conditions for the organization and management of County Public Libraries (Maurice Travillian, 1998). Mary Walsh was the first Director of the newly formed county-wide system.
The mission statement of the system reads:
The Allegany County Library System enriches people's lives by providing information, materials, services, and entertaining programs to promote community, lifelong learning, and opportunity for all.
2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the Allegany County Library System. The information, materials, services and programs have changed dramatically over the years, but the goal of the library system remains to promote community, lifelong learning and opportunity for all the county’s residents.
|Western Maryland Regional Library is grateful to the Allegany County Library System (in particular Lisa McKenney, Linda Burkey, Renee Mason, Lisa Broll, Debbie Hartman and Judy Castleman, and Kala Scarlett, intern), Al Feldstein, Betsy Walsh rscj, Maryanne Bartles of the Dearborn Public Library, John Fazenbaker and the Westernport Heritage Society, Allegany County Historical Society, the Western Maryland Office of the Maryland Department of Planning, George's Creek History Exhibit and the Cumberland Times-News.