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New South End Library a reality, 1982

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


To Mrs. Claudine M. Rice, retired librarian of the South Cumberland Public Library, Sunday's dedication of the new $868,462 structure at 100 Seymour Street is "a marvelous and beautiful thing."

The ceremonies, which begin at 2:30 p.m., will include the donation of 100 children's books in honor of Mrs. Rice and her successes with the children's story hours in the old library.

The South Cumberland Library was established in a classroom at the old Pennsylvania Avenue School in the fall of 1934 and was the first branch of the Cumberland Free Public Library which was begun by Miss Mary Walsh 10 years earlier at 84 Greene Street.

Four tables and 16 chairs were available for patrons two school desks were used for a circulation desk. A volunteer manned the new branch two hours daily, five days a week.

Lois Fisher was the first librarian, according to Mrs. Rice, followed by Nora Troxell, whom she replaced in 1953. Books were obtained in the beginning primarily through donations, with little money allocated for the purchase of new ones. Consequently, reading materials were sparse in the popular and children's categories.

When the Maryland State Board of Education decreed that a public library could not operate within a public school, the burden fell upon Mrs. Rice to scout a new location. "It took an awful long time to find some place in South Cumberland," she recalls, but finally located a building at 303 Virginia Avenue in the fall of 1964. A building which also housed, at various times, a Post Office, a hardware store, a mission and a business office on the other side.

Several businessmen and educators formed the South Cumberland Board of Library Trustees that fall and they aided in the move to the South Cumberland Business District where the library was now more accessible to the public.

The room occupied by the library was prepared free of charge by the area's businessmen and the door opened to the public in January, 1965. In May, 1967, the South Cumberland Board of Library Trustees bought the building and the County Board agreed to have the first floor, consisting of two large rooms, renovated. Modern shelving, restrooms, wall-to-wall carpeting and tables and chairs for children and adults were installed. The newly renovated branch was ready for business by July, 1968.

Although there was confusion occasionally, "Mrs. Gelia Puffinbarger was my helper then and we just had a wonderful time. We had a wonderful staff." She chuckles. "You notice, I considered myself a wonderful staff, too. Anyway, we got along well, never having any trouble. Oh, a couple of sassy kids once in awhile, but I took care of that. Once a school teacher, a school teacher for life. Teachers can't take sass from kids, little or big."

Although she concedes that she was "a little bit instrumental" in the success of the South Cumberland Public Library, she credits the late Miss Mary Walsh who "started the whole thing in that little place on Greene Street" (84 Greene Street in 1924).

"She never had enough money and most of the books were donated by people in the area. When the Allegany County Academy moved, Miss Mary moved to the present location. I don't know how she did it."

If it hadn't been for "Miss Mary, the most wonderful person ever who was absolutely perfect" in the mind of Mrs. Rice, "there never would have been anything," she states. "She was the real person. One of the libraries around here should be dedicated to her. Anyone who ever worked with her will tell you that."

Following the completion of the new LaVale Branch of the Allegany County Library in September, 1975, the Allegany County Library Board of Trustees accumulated enough funds to match for state support.

With these resources, the County Board purchased four properties on Seymour Street and two on Pennsylvania Avenue on June 2, 1977. The director of the library system, Robert Neal, completed the architectural program and layout for the new library building and parking lot.

The architectural firm of Gaudreau, Inc. was commissioned to design the building in July 1977, and in the fall of 1979, the Allegany County Board of Commissioners agreed to contribute $100,000 toward the construction of the new library, if matched by the Mayor and City Council. On Oct. 23, 1979, the funds were appropriated.

Phoenix Construction Corporation offered the low base bid and groundbreaking took place March 9, 1981. The remaining $300,000 required to finance the project was included in the County Board of Commissioners bond issue of March 19, 1981. The County Board of Library Trustees will pay bond issue of March 19, 1981. The County Board of Library Trustees will pay off this indebtedness in annual increments of approximately $50,000 in state funds.

The new edifice has a seating capacity of 62 people in the reading rooms and 65 in the meeting room. At the end of November of this year, the total collection of books numbered 24,467.

Staffing the new structure will be Mrs. Dorothy Babcock, Mrs. Louis Laurent, Mrs. Mary Joan McDonald and Mrs. Mary L. Hensel. Custodian will be Gregory Shaffer.

The populace served by the new library is estimated at 25,180, consisting of readers in South Cumberland, Oldtown, Rush, Spring Gap, Green Spring, Twiggtown and the West Virginia areas of Wiley Ford and Short Gap.

Mrs. Rice who pursued her education at Towson Normal College, Columbia University, Frostburg State College and the University of Maryland summer sessions, quit when she was within six weeks of obtaining a degree in library science.

"It's not that I knew so much," she states, "or that I felt I was better educated than anyone else, it was just that I learned more from Miss Walsh than anybody else."

A wife, mother and grandmother of three, Mrs. Rice was a former school teacher, at Barnes School on Green Ridge and at Gephart School for three years before becoming the South Cumberland librarian. She also did substitute teaching in "nearly all the city schools."

"I never read a story to a child," she states. "I told it. By reading out of a book to children, or any group for that matter, you'll lose them."

This enthusiasm, it is supposed, is what earned her the reputation of being the "biggest story teller" among the children, taking part in the story hours before and after dinner. Sometimes she would devote a year or two to a central theme, such as "Around the World" or "The Cumberland Story Hour," drawing upon the resources of the community through personal speakers and slide presentations.

Her days at the library until her retirement in 1974 were never anything but "fun, fun, fun! There was certainly never anything to cry about. I was never tired at the end of the day; always invigorated."


Colleen Gingerich, Sunday Times

RETIRED LIBRARIAN Mrs. Claudine M. Rice, who retired as librarian from the South Cumberland Library in 1974, will be honored at this afternoon's dedication ceremonies when 100 children's books will be donated in recognition of her years of service at the former site, 303 Virginia Avenue.

SOUTH CUMBERLAND LIBRARY — Area Boy scouts transported the nearly 25,000 books from the old South Cumberland Library at 303 Virginia Avenue to the new facility at 100 Seymour Street where dedication ceremonies are being conducted 2:30 p.m. this afternoon. This shot extends from the children's reading area, foreground, to the adult reading area at the other end of the structure. Hours will be from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


Collection Location:

Public libraries, Maryland, Allegany County; Allegany county Library System (Md.), Anniversaries.

Allegany County (Md,), 1960-2010

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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