Frostburg books vital, 1995
'Burg books vital
People in Frostburg are looking forward to the time when there will be a new, bigger, better public library to serve the town. No decision has been reached about where it will stand, what it will look like, or what facilities it will offer in addition to stacks of books, but each discussion brings the goal a little closer.
Books have been important in Frostburg since the very beginning. The earliest settlers brought them along, and used them to teach their children to read before there were any schools. Wealthy men, like A.C. Greene and Owen Hitchins, had book-lined libraries. The few newspapers which have survived from the first half of the 19th century call attention to "best sellers" which were available in local stationery stores.
The first lending libraries were probably provided, by the Sunday schools, which were established to teach the Three R's to children who were unable to attend school during the week. Without child labor laws or mandatory school attendance, many boys and girls became wage-earners at a very early age. In big cities they were used in factories; in Pennsylvania the coal companies employed breakerboys; here it is more likely that they helped on the family farm, and came to town only on Sunday, when the family went to church.
Sunday schools, although supported by churches, were nondenominational. The instruction the children received could be supplemented by "homework" in the form of books from the school library. Some of those storybooks can be seen at the Museum large doses of sentiment and morality, served up with a thin sugarcoating of narrative. If they had been our only choice, some of us might never have learned to read!
When the YMCA was organized in Frostburg in 1873, one of its important objectives was to establish a reading room for young men. It moved several times in the next few years, but by 1897 the "Y" Library occupied a second-floor room which extended from the Central Hotel, where Durst's stands now on Main Street, across the alley which gave access to the stables and out-buildings used by Hotel patrons.
In 1903 the building was in disrepair and was torn down; what happened to the library books is not on record..
A year earlier, in September of 1902, the Normal School opened with a library, mostly stocked with local contributions, in a small room to the left of the main entrance. In 1916, when the residence hall was built, the library was moved there. Local citizens were invited to use the books (after all, they had given them:) until the Depression period, when Mr. Dunkle, the College President, announced that funding cuts made limited hours and limited service necessary.
After 1928, the college library moved to the third floor of Old Main, which had originally been designed as a combination gym and auditorium. In 1954 students and faculty helped carry the books to the lower level of Lowndes Hall; in 1965 the library expanded into Frampton; and now, spread out over all five floors of the Lewis Ort Building, the FSU, library extends its services to students and townspeople alike.
There was talk of a public library for Frostburg in 1929, and again in 1940, when the old synagogue on Stoyer Street was suggested as a site. Nothing came of either effort.
Then, in 1955, the newly-organized Frostburg Branch of AAUW got into the act. They rented a store-front on Main Street, near Maple, corraled husbands into building shelves, and collected books that citizens set out by their curbs. Their proposal to turn old magazines into cash backfired; at that time they were not recyclable, and the women had to pay to have them added to the town dump.
People of all ages used the Frostburg Library. It quickly outgrew its first quarters and moved to a larger store across the street. Then a local citizen, who asked to remain anonymous, offered to match funds raised toward a separate library building. When the new facility opened operations were taken over by the Allegany County Library, and Frostburg became a part of the Pratt Library system.
Now the holdings in our local library are once again exceeding the space available for them. The building of which we were so proud has developed leaks, and is showing the effects of construction on a rubble-filled lot. Technology has placed new demands on library collections, and it is time to move on to facilities which will serve the generations that follow us.
Frostburg people still read books, and they continue to work together, pooling their resources to make our town a good one in which to live.
Frostburg Weekly Ex-Press
Public libraries, Maryland, Allegany County; Allegany County Library System (Md.), Anniversaries.
Allegany County (Md,), 1924-2010