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Librarian of the year for 2007 enjoys rewarding, successful day

February 08, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - First, Mary Baykan posed for pictures with the Maryland House speaker and local delegates.

Then, she was escorted to the Senate chamber, for more pictures and recognition.

Her day in the sun in chilly Annapolis on Wednesday started with a presentation at the Anne Arundel County Courthouse and ended with a reception with legislators. She was a star during Maryland Library Day.

Baykan, director of the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, said that being named 2007 Librarian of the Year by Library Journal, a national trade publication, has been a fun whirlwind.

Winning was a shock.

That December day, she was already a winner. She had just seen Navy, the team she was rooting for, beat Army in Philadelphia in their annual football game.

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Then came the call from Library Journal.

"I could not believe it ...," she recalled. "I almost drove into a tree."

The other thing Baykan did Wednesday, one of her specialties, was lobby lawmakers for library support.

Representing the Maryland Library Association, she said, she helped secure the largest per-capita state funding increase for libraries two years ago.

The success from last year's session was a new $5 million state grant program for library renovation and construction.

A main focus this year is a $17 million expansion and renovation project for the main library branch in downtown Hagerstown.

Because the library branch also houses Western Maryland Public Libraries, a regional system, the library is asking the state for $7 million.

The library is seeking $8 million from the county and $1 million from the state grant program that started last year.

It plans to raise the remaining $1 million.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert/Prince George's, recalled during Wednesday's session that Baykan testified two years ago about working in a library without toilets. "That's how we got the bond bill through," he said.

Baykan moved to Hagerstown from Palm Beach County, Fla., 12 years ago. She arrived during a blizzard, but she liked Hagerstown and the region.

"I just wanted an opportunity to contribute to a community, to make a difference," she said.

When Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, introduced Baykan in the Senate, a gallery filled with librarians burst into applause.

"Hey, we want you to pretend you're in a library," Miller said, pretending to chastise them.

Munson called her arrival in Hagerstown "like a breath of fresh air" for Washington County Free Library.

"It was essentially outdated and falling apart," he said.

Because library funding was low then, "I had a lot of educating to do about how libraries are used," Baykan said.

She still teaches and lobbies often. She said she wants local government officials to understand how important the library is to the community, both as a resource and for downtown economic development.

More than 1,000 people enter the library on an average day, Baykan said.

"If we were (in) a mall, we'd be Macy's," she said.

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