Statewide library group honors local volunteer

July 05, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Mary Summerville remembers the elation of getting her first library card as an 8-year-old. That excitement for books and the library never waned.

Summerville, who just celebrated her 80th birthday, went on to become a teacher and said she has the same amount of passion for the library as she had for being a teacher.

The day she retired from teaching, she went to the Central Branch of the Washington County Free Library and asked if they needed volunteers. That was 20 years ago, and Summerville has been volunteering ever since.

"I knew I couldn't sit home. I had too much energy for that," said Summerville, who taught for 27 years. She said the years she taught third grade were her favorites.


Her passion hasn't gone unnoticed. She recently was named Outstanding Volunteer of the Year by the Maryland Library Association.

Summerville received her award at a luncheon at the MLA Convention in Ocean City.

"I was totally and completely surprised. When the girls called from the association, I cried," Summerville said. "Now I have to really work to earn it."

Summerville was nominated by Mary Baykan, director, and Kathleen O'Connell, assistant director, of the Washington County Free Library.

In their nomination letter, Baykan and O'Connell highlighted the many ways Summerville serves the library - as two-time president of the Friends of the Library, as volunteer member of the annual Gala in the Stacks fundraiser committee, and as a member of the Citizens for Maryland Libraries, a statewide library advocacy group.

Until the Friends of the Library group was formed in 1999, Summerville said her library volunteer work was sporadic. She helped form the group and agreed to be its first president - rededicating herself to the library.

"Oh, I love it. It's something worthwhile and I love the people here," Summerville said.

Summerville estimates she spends at least 10 hours a week in library-related volunteering. She just finished her second term as Friends of the Library president.

During the seven years she's been involved with the group, she has initiated free summer foreign language classes for elementary students, organized two book appraisal fundraisers, provided financial support for the Summer Reading Club and giving gifts to the library staff at holidays.

The Friends group reads to schoolchildren during National Library Week, provides and serve refreshments at special events and helps register children for the summer reading program. Summerville also coordinates volunteers to stuff and stamp mailings for the library.

The group's membership has increased from 25 to 133 with many of the new members friends Summerville has persuaded to join.

Summerville has been a member of the Gala in the Stacks committee since the fundraiser was started five years ago. She is now the only volunteer, while the rest of the committee is library staff.

She said she makes a lot of phone calls during the day to help the staff and also runs errands related to decorating, catering and entertainment.

"The gala is fun to do, but boy that last month," Summerville said. "We work, complain and love it."

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Summerville has immersed herself in the politics of funding, attending local public budget hearings on behalf of the library.

She is quick to point out that while the Washington County library system is about the seventh-most efficient system statewide, it is the lowest-funded system per capita in the state.

Armed with that information, Summerville served as a board member of the Citizens for Maryland Libraries this past year, which allows her to advocate for the library system in a bigger arena.

Summerville and her husband, Delbert, just celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary. The couple, who lives on The Terrace, have two adult children and four grandchildren.

She said her husband encourages her volunteer efforts, knowing she would be bored if she didn't keep busy. Summerville is also an active member of Covenant Presbyterian Church and AAUW and tries to help with at least one activity of the Women's Club a year.

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