History of Westernport library
It is difficult not to reminisce as we see how far the library has come since Mrs. Engle, Sr. then President of the Westernport and Luke Civic Club had a vision of a library for Westernport. I recall a group of the members of the Civic Club began to gather books, get a room and advertize. When we had 100 books, gifts mostly and a room on the 2nd floor of the City Building, the library was ready for business. Shelves were needed and the cost would be $60. Mr. Allen Luke, then manager of the Mill was asked to give a contribution. He gave $25, a generous gift. Today a request from the same organization, Westvaco brought $10,000. With little funds for books, the book selection com. was very careful not to buy a book in which the characters got a divorce. Find a book today without divorce in it!
Financing the library was a continuing problem: A membership fee was charged, a rental collection helped, teas, card parties, gifts from local organizations, loans of books from the Division of Library Extension. The library was staffed with volunteer help for many years. Then came the NYA (National Youth Administration), and the WPA (Works Progress Administration), the City Council gave $300 a year, and later the County United Organization included the Westernport Library to receive funds. With a little income, the library paid a nominal salary to the faithful who served as librarians: Bella Tonry, Mrs. Allan Mays, Mrs. Florence Wills, and Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas. Through the years a regular schedule of being open two days a week was maintained.
During these years our hope was that a county library would be established in Allegany County with Westernport as a branch. In 1945 the Division of Library Extension was established to help the counties give library service to their people. Then a bill was passed in the state legislature whereby counties could levy 2c on each $100 of assessable property, or appropriate a similar amount. With this impetus, the PTA's of the county, the Homemakers’ Clubs, Women's Clubs, Service Clubs began campaigning in earnest for a county library. Year after year, the County Commissioners were asked to appropriate funds, but the answer was always the same, "No money. We favor the idea of a county library, but there is no money." Rural people began asking for bookmobile service. The Ruth Enlow Bookmobile from Garrett County was borrowed to tour this county to demonstrate the services of a county library. But hunters, fishermen, taxpayers began protesting the idea of a county library, and you know who won.
In 1960, the Governor of Maryland appointed a 7-man library board for Allegany County. and a county library became a reality. The small local library outside of Cumberland officially gave their collections of books to the county library, and the Cumberland library had the main library. With state book funds now available, more books were added, circulation increased, and staff members were paid salaries. This is all history with which you are familiar.
Since this is Fathers' Day, we want to give the City Fathers credit, especially Ray Wilt as mayor, and Okey Michael, as then head of the Westernport Planning Commission, with securing the lot on which the new home for the library is being built, and pushing for the funds necessary to build the building, from the State, from the Appalachian funds, and the generous gift from Westvaco. The Westernport library turned over the legacy left it by Mrs. Alice Mason. This brings us to today:
I want to thank all of you who have made this occasion a reality. I will long remember it. I can truly say I have enjoyed working in the library and serving many years as chairman of the library committee; trying to give the right book to the right person at the right time. I recall coming to the library one day with an armload of books, and met a former Bruce student, now grown to be a man, and he said, with surprise in his voice, "Why, Mrs. McCoy, are you still peddlin' books?" I shall miss the opportunity to peddle books. But we have brought the library this far, and the new library will be equipped to give more adequate service to the community. I leave it in good hands, Mary Ord, and Alvina Hitt. If you forget all that has been said tonight, remember “Help the library”
Nellie McCoy, librarian of the Westernport Library
Photograph from the collection of the Westernport Heritage Society, courtesy John Fazenbaker. It shows the construction of a footbridge over George's Creek. The library was in the City Building behind the group of men watching the construction.
Public libraries, Maryland, Allegany County; Allegany County Library System (Md.), Anniversaries.
Allegany County (Md,), 1924-2010