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Honor Mary Baykan by enlarging central library

January 05, 2007

Mary Baykan may think of herself as a "country librarian from Hagerstown," but the director of the Washington County Free Library has achieved a national honor for her work on behalf of libraries all over Maryland.

We hope that Washington County residents appreciate Baykan and the importance of her achievements. More important, we hope they are ready to help when it comes time to expand the central library in downtown Hagers-town.

Baykan was named the Library Journal's 2007 Librarian of the Year, in large part for helping persuade members of the Maryland General Assembly to increase library funding.

In 2005, the legislature upped the amount of funds counties could get for their libraries on a per-capita basis.

In 2006, lawmakers created a grant program for library renovations and funded the program to the tune of $5 million.

During Baykan's 12-year tenure, she has also overseen the construction of new libraries in Clear Spring and Smithsburg. In addition, ground has been broken for another new library in Boonsboro.

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Libraries are an important part of any community. They allow readers to explore a wide variety of authors without investing hundreds of dollars to buy the volumes.

For students, libraries are a place to do research for projects and papers, often with the expert help of the reference department.

For historians or those just curious about the past, the library's Western Maryland room provides source material that might otherwise be accessible only on a limited basis through a private collector.

But the library also functions as a gathering place, with meeting rooms that community groups can use. And, the central library draws people to the downtown area.

In February, the commissioners discussed the library's plan to expand usable space there from 38,000 square feet to 65,000 square feet, at a cost of about $13 million. A $200,000 feasability study was also proposed.

The first reaction of some of the county commissioners was that the county government could not afford to pay the entire cost of the project.

Who expected that? We anticipate a capital campaign, to which all citizens who are able should contribute.

Hagerstown - the county seat of Washington County - now has a campus of the University System of Maryland in its downtown and within a few years will have a magnet school for the arts.

The perfect complement to all of those would be a renovated library. It would show all of Maryland that Washington Countians value education and learning and would also better serve all of its patrons.

No doubt Baykan will get a plaque with the Library Journal award. But the better prize - and the one the whole community needs and deserves - would be the completion of the central library renovation project.

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