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Read all about it! Thurmont Library
 50 and growing

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont Dispatch

(11/18) On Feb. 25, 1956, Edith Hammaker received a dozen roses from her husband. When she opened the note with them, she read: "Ever since I persuaded you to leave your position as a librarian in Washington to come to Thurmont to live, you have longed for an opportunity to return to library work. I don't see how this library can be anything but a success with you at the helm."

Ernie Hammaker was trying to recognize his wife's hard work in getting Thurmont it's first library, but at the same time, he also proved himself an accurate prognosticator. After 50 years, the library continues to grow and thrive.

"Mrs. Hammaker came from the city and evidently would say that Thurmont really needed a library and the community worked behind her to get one," Erin Dingle, the current Thurmont Branch Manager, said.

When the Thurmont Library opened its doors on West Main Street in 1956, Edith was its first librarian and she worked for free because of her belief in the need for a library.

It had taken a year to organize the library board, find a location and stock the library. Ross Smith was elected the first president of the library board at the first meeting in the Thurmont High School.

Town residents had spent the time since then making cash and book donations and holding special events to raise funds like bake sales and a three-ring circus at the American Legion. The Town of Thurmont also contributed $800 to the effort.

In March, the library board purchased the Boblitz property, a double-wide home on West Main Street. By late April, $3,000 had been raised and just a few weeks later nearly $6,000 had been raised for the library. The Catoctin Enterprise began running the "Our Library" column to keep the community up to date on the progress of the library and eventually the events and new books in the library.

The library began processing books in July and by the middle of August, it had 500 books. The goal was to have 1,500 volumes when the library opened so that it would be "stocked with books through the earnest efforts of many citizens of this community," according to the Catoctin Enterprise.

Once the library opened in February 1956, Edith served as the main librarian until 1962. After her tenure, the Catoctin Enterprise would note, "Much of the credit for the initial success of this new venture can be attributed to the knowledgeable insights and hard, unselfish work on the part of Mrs. Hammaker who has served without remuneration."

John Kinnaird was a teenager during the last years of the library on West Main and he spent a lot of time there. "It had very small rooms. The floors creaked and it had a musty smell," Kinnaird recalled. "Even now, when I smell a musty smell, it reminds me of the old library."

The new library sponsored its first story hour a week after it opened. By the end of April 377 library cards had been issued and the library had 1,781 books. That number would grow to 2,225 books a year later.

With the growth of the library, the West Main Street location became crowded by the mid-1960s. The search began for a new location when the library board bought the Gall and Smith building, a former Moravian church on Water Street, at below-market value. The library board then spent $10,000 to renovate the 2,100 square feet of space in the building.

The move to the new library took place in 1968 with the help of the town's children. Kinnaird was one of them. "Everything was boxed up. It was a string of kids carrying the boxes out the back door of the old library, across two back yards and in the back door of the new library," Kinnaird said.

By the time the library made the move to the new location, Margaret Krone had become the new librarian, a position she would hold for 32 of her 38 years with the library. She even lived next door to the library. She closed it from noon to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. so she could go home to make lunch and dinner for her family.

Dingle remembers "hanging out" in the library when she was in 7th grade. She liked to plug headphones into the library's stereo and listen to records. "Sometimes, I would start singing out loud and Margaret would yell at me," Dingle recalled.

Dingle has worked for the library since 1987 after she earned her degree from Mount St. Mary's College. She became the branch manager when Krone retired in 1994.

"Four to five hundred people a month walk through the door of this tiny branch," said Thurmont Librarian Erin Dingle. "We expect even more in the new library."

Whether that prediction comes true, we'll have to wait a year to see. However, the groundbreaking for the new 25,000-square-foot regional library will happen on Saturday, Nov. 18.

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