Art Callaham: Nora Roberts and Bruce Wilder are community treasures

November 06, 2011|By ART CALLAHAM

I’m guilty! As reported by me and sometimes with a little disdain by other opinion letter writers, I serve as the president of the Washington County Free Library’s Board of Trustees. Sometimes The Herald-Mail even puts that fact in the editor’s note at the end of this column. I really love libraries, I love to read and I love books, but recently I found out that I’m just a “piker” when it comes to books.

Ever heard of Nora Roberts? I suspect anyone who knows anything about books has heard of her. There are over 400 million books in print bearing her name or one of her several “nom de plumes”.

Ms. Roberts is one of the most prolific authors in the history of writing.

Let me put 400 million books in perspective: If you placed 400 million books end to end that trail would reach from New York City to Los Angeles — 18 times. Those 400 million books would fill the stacks of 2,000 libraries that are the size of our own Washington County Free Library. If you placed one of those 400 million books on each seat at Wrigley Field you could do that 9,900 times, selling out Cubs’ games with books for 124 seasons. Personally, I can’t think of books or libraries without a thought about Nora Roberts.

Roberts has had published 195 full-length novels with 173 of those appearing on the New York Times best seller list. In fact, since 1991, a Roberts book has appeared on that list for 879 weeks (that’s 16.5 years) with 178 of those weeks a Roberts book at No. 1 (that is 3 years of number one books).

But books are only the beginning of Ms. Roberts and her husband Bruce Wilder’s relationship with Washington County and particularly Boonsboro. First, Roberts and Wilder live here. According to a did-you-know website, Ms. Roberts and her husband “live on a hilltop in Western Maryland.” I believe that hilltop is in Washington County.

Second, Roberts and Wilder own the newly renovated Inn BoonsBoro, soon I’m sure to be an economic generator for a rejuvenated downtown Boonsboro.  Roberts and Wilder acquired the inn several years ago, suffered through a fire that destroyed much of the building and have recently renovated it to a level of grandeur at least equal to the finest inns in the entire United States.  I had a tour a couple of Saturdays ago and can personally attest to the grand level of the effort.

Third, Wilder also runs the Turn the Page Bookstore across the street from the inn. The quaint bookstore has been the site of many book signings and releases of Roberts’ authored books. The inn has a positive economic impact and creates widespread national publicity. For a small town like Boonsboro those benefits are immeasurable.

Fourth, Nora Roberts has released the first in a book trilogy set in and around the Inn BoonsBoro. The first release is entitled “The Next Always.” Can you imagine all of the positive press that will occur with this release?  Boonsboro, Washington County and the surrounding countryside will be “on the map.”  If they haven’t done it already, I would suggest Mayor “Skip” Kauffman and the Town Council give Ms. Roberts and Mr. Wilder keys to the town.

Finally (although this, I am sure, is far from the end of the Roberts/Wilder economic boom for Washington County) Ms. Roberts and Mr. Wilder were significant contributors to the Boonsboro Branch of the Washington County Free Library’s capital campaign when that branch was built. More than money, their continuing personal support for that library and libraries in general is graciousness personified.

On Saturday, Oct. 22, Nora Roberts and Bruce Wilder hosted a gala at the Inn BoonsBoro. During the gala, several pieces of Robert’s jewelry were auctioned to form a basis for future contributions to literacy programs and library construction. Part of the auction was held on an internationally recognized Internet auction site, once again giving our community far-reaching positive public exposure.

To Nora Roberts and Bruce Wilder, on behalf of the Washington County Free Library’s Board of Trustees, I want to thank you for the many gifts you have given this community. I have written before about the many treasures we are blessed to have in our community and I now suggest that the two of you are members of that list. Thank you.

Art Callaham is a Hagerstown resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.

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