Library fund-raising efforts intensify


SMITHSBURG - Smithsburg artists, quilters and homeowners are helping to raise money for the town's new library.

Fund-raising efforts have intensified since project supporters in March secured a site for the new and improved branch of the Washington County Free Library, Smithsburg Library Board President Judith Ferro said.

Friends of Smithsburg Library, a group that includes library board members and other project proponents, are forging ahead to raise the estimated $1 million it will cost to build a 10,000-square-foot library in the town's Veterans' Park, Ferro said.

"We're no longer the little library in the little town of Smithsburg," she said. "Our base has dramatically increased. We need to provide more children's services, and update technology as well as the traditional functions of the library. This is an enormous effort that's going to require support from all the people in the area who are going to use the new library."


In operation since 1921, the old stone library east of Town Square is too small to serve the area's growing population, Ferro and other library supporters said.

Smithsburg, current population about 2,500, is one of the fastest growing areas in Washington County, according to the 2000 census.

About 8,000 people live within five miles of the new library site, and about 36,000 county residents live within seven miles of the new site. A bigger library will better serve all those potential users, Smithsburg Library Branch Manager Patricia Monahan said.

Nearly 11,000 volumes are squeezed onto the shelves in the old 1,000-square-foot building, she said. The space is so tight that "every time you get a new book you have to take one off the shelf," Monahan said.

Library patrons have trouble checking out children's books during children's story hour three times each month because they can't fit into the cramped juvenile book section, she said. Books top the conference table in the library's only meeting room. There is no public rest room, and only two computers for library patrons to use, Monahan said.

More space will enable the library to offer a better selection of research and recreational reading materials, meeting rooms for civic and other groups and an expanded technology center, the librarian said.

The bigger new library's central location will be convenient and offer ample parking for all users, supporters said.

The Washington County Board of Education in 1991 donated two acres of school property adjacent to the town's park - land that could then be swapped for two acres of park property of equal value through a complex land conversion process outlined by the state's Program Open Space, said Park Committee Chairwoman Mildred "Mickey" Myers, who spearheaded the effort.

The conversion was expected to take up to one year after state officials received the necessary documentation, Myers said.

Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, helped push the paperwork through in 29 days, she said.

Friends of Smithsburg Library are now focusing their efforts on funding the new branch. They have secured about $380,000, Ferro said, and have planned numerous fund-raisers.

Funds already raised or pledged include a $50,000 grant from the Washington County Free Library, a $10,000 county hotel/motel tax grant, $200,000 over two years from the county and about $120,000 in private donations, Ferro said.

Large private contributions thus far include a $74,000 bequest from the estate of Dr. Donald Kimler - whose homeplace was two doors down from the current library - and an $8,400 gift from the family of Sam and Mary Jacques.

Friends of Smithsburg Library has applied through the main library for a $25,000 Richard Funkhouser Foundation grant, Ferro said. Grantees will be announced later this month, she said.

Smithsburg artist Carol Smith has donated 50 prints of the current library to be given to individual or business contributors of $50 or more, Ferro said.

Smithsburg's Friendship Quilters, a group of friends who gather at Trinity Lutheran Church twice monthly to stitch and quilt, created a colorful wall hanging called "Love to Read" to be raffled for the benefit of the new library, quilter Betty Jo Ganley said.

She and quilters Emily Sheets, Edna Naylor, Lafern Smith, Margaret Schlimme, Brenda Finch and June Bliss added books or book bags to the traditional "Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Sam" patterns to create nine unique blocks that show their passion for reading, Ganley said.

"We all just love the library and decided we needed to do something to help," she said.

Tickets, which cost $1 each or 7 for $5, are available at the library, through the quilters and members of the Cavetown Homemakers club, and local businesses. The wall hanging will be raffled at the close of Smithsburg Pride Days on Sunday, July 21.

Smithsburg songstress Marlene Young will donate half of the profits from the sale of her Christian music CDs to Smithsburg residents to the library fund, Ferro said.

Friends of Smithsburg Library will host a home and garden tour - including seven Smithsburg-area homes ranging from late Victorian-era residences to a contemporary bed and breakfast - on June 8. Group members will staff booths at the town's Pride Days celebration and Steam & Craft Fair, Ferro said.

Plans for an auction and a plaque to honor donors are also in the works, she said.

Significant donors will have naming rights in the new library, supporter Lynn Shaw said.

"A real significant donor could put his or her name above the front door," he said.

Friends of Smithsburg Library in May began a mail solicitation to local businesses, and plans to request donations from residents, Ferro said.

The group will also seek state and federal grants, she said.

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