Mary Walsh retires, 1963
Miss Mary Walsh, First Lady of Books retires after helping library to grow to County System
Forty years ago, a teacher at Allegany County High School was approached by municipal leaders to start a public library for Cumberland. Today, forty years later, she retires after having expanded the modest Cumberland Free Public Library to the stately columned building on Washington Street on picturesque Prospect Square.
Miss Mary G. Walsh has been the guiding light as Cumberland Free Public Library grew into the Allegany County Library system of four libraries and a bookmobile.
She has seen the library grow from a modest beginning of 1,650 hooks to the present total of 64,321 in the central library and three branches.
Two Final Projects
A crowning event of a long and dedicated career saw the completion of the Maryland Room and the children’s library on the second floor. Miss Walsh entered the educational field in the same building, where she ended it today.
After graduating from Notre Dame College of Maryland, she was a part-time French teacher, in the old Allegany County Academy which was located in the present library building from 1915 through 1917.
From 1918 to 1923 she was on the faculty of Allegany County High School which was then located on the corner of Greene and South Lee Streets.
Asked By Civic Leaders
In 1923, Miss Walsh was asked to undertake a library and she then took a course in library science at Columbia University.
Prominent in supporting Miss Walsh and the first Cumberland Free Public Library, were the late Judge Albert A. Doub and Mayor Thomas W. Koon, president of the first board of trustees.
As with many local projects of beneficial nature to the citizens of Cumberland, impetus to the library was given in the City Council by Mayor Koon.
The initial appropriation of $2,000 from the city set the library into motion, and it was this council and civic support finally saw it grow into the fine building on Prospect Square.
The city provided the first library building at 72 Greene Street, in what was the former office building of the Water Department. The partitions were removed by city workers and furniture was obtained
Board Raised $5,000
The $2,000 from the Mayor and Council was augmented by $5000 collected by the board of trustees.
Miss Walsh gives much credit to the library’s present status to the splendid support received during the 40 years from the members of the board.
The initial one was comprised of Judge Doub; Mayor Koon; Tasker G. Lowndes, treasurer; John J. Tipton, assistant Allegany County superintendent of schools, secretary; Mrs. Margaret Upham, principal of West Side School; Isaac Hirsch, Mrs. Anna M. McCleave, Wilbur V. Wilson and Henry Shriver.
Opened March 1, 1925
The first library opened March 1, 1925, with 1,650 books, half of them gifts.
Miss Walsh took a year sabbatical leave in the 1929-30 school year to take additional library science courses at Columbia University.
Three things then occurred that changed the location of the library, — the arrival of the Depression, the closing of the Allegany County Academy on June 1929 after being in existence since 1789 and at its location on Prospect Square since 1850, and a library on Greene Street that was bulging with books.
Largely due to the efforts of the board of trustees and Mrs. Robert R. Henderson, mother of retired Judge George Henderson, the academy building was acquired from the County Commissioners for use as a library
County Entered Picture
A stipulation in the deed to the Academy called for the use of the site for educational purposes only.
Then with the county commissioners sponsoring as a governmental agency, Public Works Administration funds under the Roosevelt administration were obtained and the building was redesigned for library purposes.
Architectural work was handled by George Sansbury of here; the PWA workers did the alterations, and hauled the books from the Greene Street location.
The next major change came three years ago. and Miss Walsh noted that ? agency came to the rescue to obtain state and federal library money.
Responsible for cooperating and getting just under the wire with the Allegany County Library system were the then county Commissioners John J. Rowan, J Tucker Mason and William A. Wilson, and the Mayor and Council.
The latter cooperated by not stopping its support immediately, but in diminishing amounts for three years of $10,000, $5,000 and $1,500
In addition to the central library, the county system includes ones at LaVale, started by the La Vale Century Club; Frostburg, originally sponsored by the Georges Creek Branch of the American Association of University Women, and at Westernport.
During her 40 years, Miss Walsh had 600 assistants, some paid, many volunteers, at the local library and in the past three years, in the county system.
But the crowning glory of her long service, is the immeasurable assistance she gave to thousands of the students and book lovers.
Miss Walsh at the time of her retirement aided grandchildren of youngsters she helped at the time the Cumberland Free Public Library had its modest beginning on Greene Street.
What are her immediate plans for retirement?
She stated bluntly during the height of the annual inventory at the library yesterday that she is going to Atlantic City for a month (sleeping the entire first week).
Cumberland's First Lady of Books leaves the 84,321 books, the three branches, and her enthusiasm for and reading to her successor, Rollin P. Marquis of River Edge, N. J., who officially takes over tomorrow.
C. A. Lancaster, Cumberland Sunday Times
Public libraries, Maryland, Allegany County; Allegany county Library System (Md.), Anniversaries.
Allegany County (Md,), 1960-2010