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Library is center of social scene

July 18, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. -- It's a library that serves patrons in four counties in two states, where talking, meeting and greeting is allowed, where children have fun and the admonition to "shush" rarely, if ever, is heard.

"This is not a quiet library," said Nancy Bert, 71, who joined the Blue Ridge Summit Free Library in 1975 as a volunteer and eventually moved up to librarian. In 2001, she became branch manager when the library became affiliated with the Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library in Waynesboro, Pa.

"Children play in the library," Bert said. "It's gossip central. Blue Ridge Summit is a huge plateau where two states and four counties -- Franklin and Adams in Pennsylvania and Frederick and Washington in Maryland -- come together. These are the people we serve."  

"This is the main artery of the mountain. It's where everybody meets," said Elizabeth Farmer, 28, who volunteered at the library from fifth grade through her senior year in high school. "It's a cultural plethora, a place where you can see people like nowhere else. This mountain would not be the same without this library. It's our social gathering place."

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The library was organized in 1922 and for the next 26 years, it was in the parish house of the Church of the Transfiguration in Blue Ridge Summit. In 1957, the Western Maryland Railroad gave its 1911 passenger station to the library to have a home of its own.

Outside the library Saturday, the 33rd annual Ice Cream Social and Book Sale was under way. A major library fundraiser, it nets about $5,000 for the library's coffers. A second fundraiser, the annual solicitation for donations, brings in another $7,000, Bert said.

The rest of the library's nearly $60,000 budget comes from grants and state and local government funding.

Strains of John Philip Sousa's "The Thunderer" wafted over the small festival grounds. The Waynesboro Band, shaded by the canopy of a big maple tree, performed while patrons sat on the town green in lawn chairs and on hay bales.

Other entertainment in the daylong festival included a dog-training demonstration, a children's magic program, a book signing by author John H. McClellan and more music by the Sweet Adelines and the Home Comfort bluegrass band.

There was plenty of good, cheap food, including grilled all-beef hot dogs that overwhelmed their buns. The library board, which ran the concession stand, was selling them for a buck.

"We decided five years ago to keep our prices down," Shirley Fitz said. "Families with children come here."

"This is more of a social event then a fundraiser," said Dan Dominick , whose wife, Pat, is a board member. She was selling goods in the bake sale in the next tent.

A major part of the festival is the book sale. Tables set up under long rows of tents held the thousands of books that either are donated each year or come from the library's own overstocks.

Toni Horvat of Smithsburg was one of Saturday's happy customers. She was looking through a heavy box she had filled with books from the sale.

"About $20 worth," Horvat said. "I don't know if I'll be able to read them all."

In the box were mysteries and histories, plus a few old children's books.

"Those are for my collection," she said.

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