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Frostburg has rich library history

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Reader Commentary

Frostburg has rich library history

Frostburg's interest in a library reaches back in time over 120 years. "The people of Frostburg were always readers," our local historian said. "They had fine small libraries in their homes and borrowed from the book collections kept in their churches. In 1873, the Frostburg YMCA opened a reading room and the newspaper observed that a public reading room for young men was much needed!" It was "well-stocked" with 258 volumes.

In 1874, the Frostburg Circulating Library opened in John Hitchins' store, where one could pay 10 cents per volume for two weeks. Within a couple of years small libraries were operated also from Betz's Jewelry Store and Percy's Drug Store, where there were 115 books available and membership cost $1 a year.

During the next 90 years, citizens made numerous attempts to establish a sound public library in our city. The Civic Club launched a notable effort in 1915 with a public meeting held in the Gladstone Annex. Officers were elected and a committee appointed to solicit books. Lack of money sabotaged the project. Mrs. Dunkle, president of the Civic Club, again brought the matter up for discussion in 1929.

The Boy Scouts started a drive to collect books in 1934. The Women's Community Club mailed out letters in 1941 asking for support. In 1954, the state director for Library Extension wrote in her report, "Frostburg is the only town of 7,000 people in Maryland that doesn't have a public library."

In 1955, unaware of the report, the Education Study Group of Frostburg-George's Creek Branch of American Association of University Women chose to sponsor, as a community project, the building of a library. A small group of six to eight persons set forth an exceptionally well-conceived and organized agenda involving many community organizations and the city government. Broad public support in the form of money, gifts of all sorts, countless hours of volunteer work, and inspired dedication resulted in the opening, in a rented building, of Frostburg's first community library. The date was July 17, 1955.

Detailed records kept by the AAUW Education Group, the Friends of the Frostburg Public Library, the Board of Trustees, and a scrapbook give impressive testimony of the inspired persistent efforts made by devoted people from that day forward.

By 1957 the book collection numbered 5,000 volumes and had outgrown the 97 East Main Street quarters. In August, volunteers moved the library across the street to the first floor of the Masonic Temple. During the four years at this site, Friends of the Library campaigned to raise money to construct a new library. The Frostburg Rotary Club donated over $4,000. When contributions reach $7,500 Joseph Kruson made a matching gift and construction could begin.

The committee purchased the nearby Gross property, and in September of 1960, men began work on the first building in Allegany County built specifically as a library. The Arion Band played and over 900 people attended the open house on Sept. 15, 1961, of what is the present library.

Debt-free, the building was turned over to Mr. Robert Neal and the county library system in 1972.

By 1985 AAUW members were again speaking of the need for a larger building with space for expanding collections and updated facilities. The current structure showed signs of serious deterioration. Fund-raising events appeared on calendars, county officials gave counsel, experts researched sites, and other civic organizations, including the Candlelight Tour Committee and the Soroptimists joined in the fund-raising. AAUW financed the feasibility study done by Grimm and Parker, an architectural firm specializing in building libraries.

Interested citizens visited several other libraries before developing program needs. The City of Frostburg offered an ideal site and Allegany County Commissioners pledged financial help. The architects refined the plans. The Library Development Committee prepared informational flyers and a booklet is nearly completed.

Private individuals and public organizations, schools, churches, and businesses are now graciously and generously offering their support, that we may build a handsome, spacious, well equipped new library in Frostburg, extending the dreams, the traditions, and the efforts of the people of vision who came before us.

Jeanne M. Cordts, Frostburg


text and photograph of the construction of the present library, Jeanne M. Cordts

Collection Location:

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

Allegany County (Md,), 1924-2010

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

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