(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
"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
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 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 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
"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
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.