Libraries becoming 'community living rooms'

December 07, 2008|By JANET HEIM

SHARPSBURG - It was an evening filled with live jazz and vocal music, refreshments and a large gathering of community residents, young and old.

While the entertainment was worthy of a pricey cover charge, it was actually a free program called Holiday Music at the Library -- the Sharpsburg Library, that is.

For more than an hour on Dec. 2, jazz pianist Bob Sykes and instrumentalist Scott Silbert, both Sharpsburg residents, treated the audience to familiar holiday tunes.

Sykes is chairman of the jazz department at the Levine School of Music in the Washington, D.C., area. Silbert is the chief arranger for the U.S. Navy Band. Both also play at different venues throughout the Baltimore and D.C. areas.


Jazzy selections from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" were interspersed with more traditional pieces sung by an a cappella quartet that included Silbert, his wife, Jennifer Silbert, Ellen Green and Betty Snyder.

This was the first time the Sharpsburg Library offered a program of live Christmas music, and more and more folding chairs were added to accommodate the crowd.

Programs such as this have become an important community outreach for the libraries in Washington County. Each branch is responsible for its own programming. The Sharpsburg branch has had programs on rug hooking and tea time, and an Afghan woman spoke about the life of women in that country.

The main library in downtown Hagerstown offers a monthly family movie night, knitting and book clubs, speakers and a monthly live music performance on Sunday afternoons, among other things.

The Boonsboro Free Library is having a holiday recipe swap and tasting on Tuesday (reservations are required), in addition to its regular children's' story time schedule.

"We offer so much more than books and videos. In these tougher economic times, more people are asking for things. It's been a tremendous success for us," said Pat Wishard, public relations coordinator and adult program librarian at the main library.

As music filled the library, some patrons took the time to browse in the stacks. Others made their selections before the music started.

Children helped themselves to homemade cookies between turns on the computer.

"It's fabulous. I think it's marvelous that the library would do this to involve the community. What a perfect place -- amidst the books," said Keedysville resident Valerie Tonetti, who attended with her 17-year-old daughter, Cristina.

Beth Rockwell of Boonsboro has attended other programs at the library and enjoyed them all.

"I thought it was wonderful. It was a nice start to the Christmas holiday," Rockwell said of the music program.

The children were equally excited, but for different reasons. Emily Green, 10, was there to hear her mother sing and Matt Twigg, 10, was impressed that Scott Silbert can play three or more instruments.

"We are getting closer and closer to becoming the community living room," Wishard said.

For more information about programs offered at the Washington County library branches, go to or call the individual branches.

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