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Gala in the Stacks is one for the books

November 30, 1999|By MARIE GILBERT

As a child, Mary Jo Putney immersed herself in books.

She read science fiction, history, fantasy ? anything that was a good story.

Little did she know that one day, she would be the storyteller.

Putney is a critically acclaimed romance novelist. She has written more than 25 books, made all of the best seller lists and won numerous literary awards, including recognition from the American Library Association.

So when it came time to find a special guest for the Washington County Free Library's annual Gala in the Stacks, organizers invited Putney.

"With our theme, 'Romancing the Stone,' she's a perfect fit for what's happening tonight," said Kathleen O'Connell, the library's assistant director. "We're very excited she agreed to join us."

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Putney was on hand Saturday night to chat with those attending the fundraiser and to autograph copies of her books.

The event also featured dinner, wine tasting and music.

According to O'Connell, this is the seventh year for the gala.

"We've always had good community support for this fundraiser," she said. "People seem to look forward to it."

Last year, the black-tie affair raised $27,500. And while not all of the 300 tickets were sold for this year's event, O'Connell said about $22,000 already had been raised in sponsorships from area businesses and corporations.

Money from the gala will be used for refurbishing the central library in Hagerstown, and also will benefit the Boonsboro Free Library.

Charlotte Seibert, a member of the gala's planning committee, said organizers had been working on Saturday night's event for about a year.

"It's a wonderful evening, but the committee has worked hard to make it happen," she said. "Now, we all get to heave a sigh of relief."

With her work done, Seibert said she was looking forward "to enjoying a evening with people in the community who have come together to support the library."

Among those attending Gala in the Stacks was Mary Summerville, a member of the local volunteer organization Friends of the Library. Summerville, who recently was named Maryland's Library Volunteer of the Year, said she was looking forward to a fun evening and a good party.

"I wouldn't be anywhere else tonight," she said. "The library means more to me than you'll ever know. This is a great place."

The evening also included a talk on gems by guest speaker Tom Newcomer, as well as stone evaluations, souvenir caricature sketches by Kent Roberts and a chance to win a diamond donated by R. Bruce Carson Jewelers.

"It really is a magical night," O'Connell said. "It's fun to see the library so beautifully transformed. It definitely has a different feel tonight."

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