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Gala in the stacks

September 20, 2000

Gala in the stacks

By KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Gala in the Stacks

"Gala in the Stacks"

When: Saturday, Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m. to midnight

Where: Washington County Free Library

100 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

Tickets are $60 per person

Black tie or period costume is optional.

For tickets and information, call Washington County Free Library Assistant Director Kathleen O'Connell or Mary Anne Burke, gala chairwoman.

Washington County Free Library is stepping into the past Saturday night in order to build the future.


And some fancy stepping it will be.


The library will be transformed into a 1930s Paris street scene for "Gala in the Stacks," an evening billed as a fund-raiser/social. The black-tie- or period-costume-optional evening is designed to showcase the individuals and organizations that funded the remodeling of the library's downtown Hagerstown branch and the new library branch in Clear Spring, slated to open next spring.

There will be music by the Rhythm Kings and accordionist Zoltan Racz of the Gypsy Strings. Caricature artist Kent Roberts will be there. So will luminaries of the era - Mae West, Theda Bara, Rudolph Valentino, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons and Judy Garland - portrayed by members of Robinwood Encore Players.

Nat Benchley will assume the role of his grandfather, legendary humorist Robert Benchley, in a monologue or two compiled from his grandfather's work and from memories of family and friends.

Organizers plan to make the celebration an annual event, said Mary Anne Burke, a member of the library's board of trustees and event chair. Saturday's festivities are the first attempt to develop a building fund that will help with future projects, including more work at the central branch downtown as well as new libraries in Smithsburg and Boonsboro.

"Libraries are one of the most important centers of community that any city or county has," believes Mary Baykan, library director. "Hallelujah," is her reaction to the event and plans for expanded service. The gala provides a chance to thank some generous community donors, she said. These include the Washington County Gaming Commission, Allegheny Energy, past library board president Mary Strauss, Leonard P. Snyder Fund, Washington County Commissioners and the J. Allen Cloppers.

Mike Callas, chairman and CEO of Callas Contractors, is honorary chairman of Saturday's gala. Callas is involved in a countywide campaign to promote literacy. Illiteracy is an epidemic - nationally as well as locally - and is one of the underlying causes of poverty and unemployment, he believes. The public library's resources and services are "the preschooler's door to learning," he said.

Bringing the library into the 21st century takes a combined effort of private and business support, as well as government funding, Baykan said. The support shows how warmly the library is held in the hearts of the community, she added.

Washington County Free Library is well-used. A recent survey showed that 58 percent of county residents take advantage of its services, said Assistant Director Kathleen O'Connell. Nearly 900,000 materials circulate annually.

Library services go way beyond what Mary Lemist Titcomb could ever have imagined when she delivered books in the horse-drawn wagon that was Washington County's and the nation's first bookmobile in the early 1900s. The library has books, of course, but offers so much more. There are programs, story time, compact discs, books on tape, videos and computer access.

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