Reflections on Miss Mary Walsh, 2004
Reflections on Miss Mary G. Walsh, Cumberland librarian
written by her niece, Sr. Betsy Walsh, rscj
The Cumberland Public Library, with its Grecian exterior and massive white pillars, situated just above the Presbyterian and Episcopalian Churches and across the street from the Court House, has always been a stately and distinguished building.
Mary G. Walsh spent many years as the head of the Cumberland Public Library. In this capacity she served the people of the Cumberland area in many significant ways. As a child I visited the library many times and had many conversations with Miss Walsh, or Aunt Tadie, as her nieces and nephews called her.
She once said that she loved working in the library because it was like being at a big party all day long. She never allowed the many responsibilities and tasks of running a library to prevent her from spending time with the patrons who often sought her advice in selecting a good read, or who simply wanted to chat about the daily events of the town. For some citizens who found it difficult to come to the library themselves, she would prepare a pile of books for them to read. I often saw such piles of books, and she would say, "These are for Mr. X; these are for Mrs. Y." She knew their taste and people trusted her to make good choices.
There were radio programs at that time which offered prizes for the correct response to a variety of questions: historical, geographical, social... This must have been the 1940's version of Jeopardy or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Many people would phone the library to find the answers they sought, and the librarians would scurry around doing the needed research. On one occasion, I asked my aunt whether the library or the librarian would receive some part of the prize. She smiled and said, "Oh, no, we enjoy helping people."
Every week there was a "Story Hour" for the children in the area. Mary Walsh was a renowned storyteller. She was gifted with a vivid imagination and could enthrall a room full of children with stories which she generally made up as she went along. Recently her nephew Frank Werner found a typed copy of "The Brave Soldier" among some family papers which she had kept. I can remember asking her to "tell us about the brave soldier," and she would immediately launch into a new version of his adventures.
Sometimes she organized dramatizations of fairy tales or legends. I was thrilled to be asked to play the role of Snow White - or was it Cinderella??- and somewhat surprised on the day of the performance to find that there were at least nine other little girls playing the same part. Each of us had a brief appearance, and each of us was completely satisfied!!
When I was in High School I spent several summers working in the library. Aunt Tadie taught me cataloguing, so I learned that library work entailed much more than reading great books, doing research, and socializing!!
Mary Walsh created a special atmosphere and made the public library a place where people were welcomed and where they found resources for every member of the family.
Since that time the library has undergone some major changes: the Children's Room has come downstairs, the annex has been built, the reception desk is just inside the door, and the resources have increased to meet contemporary needs: computers are available for anyone who wishes to use them- but the welcoming atmosphere has not changed.
The fund raiser in which the community is now engaged will enable the library to be renovated so that it can continue to be a vital part of the intellectual and social life of the Cumberland region. You are contributing to one of our great traditions!
I sincerely regret my inability to attend this dinner, but time and distance make it impossible at this time.
Have a wonderful evening!!
Betsy Walsh, rscj
This talk was written by her niece Betsy Walsh, rscj, to be read at a fund raiser for the library, at the Cumberland Country Club in July 2004.
The photograph was provided by the family, as it had "Aunt Tadie" on the reverse.
Public libraries, Maryland, Allegany County; Allegany County Library System (Md.), Anniversaries.
Allegany County (Md,), 1924-2010