Something Borrowed, Something New

In Washington County, Maryland, where I spent my tender years, we couldn’t boast of having the world’s largest ball of yarn, but we could proudly say we were home of the nation’s (or according to the letterhead below, home of the world’s) first book wagon.


In 1982, I wrote to the head librarian inquiring about a career in library science. She kindly replied on this stationery.

I didn’t grow up during the time of the covered wagon—or Washington County’s book wagon—but I do recall, on more than one occasion, the Washington County Bookmobile making its way up the dusty drive to my aunt and uncle’s farmhouse in nearby Keedysville, Maryland. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this was the way that many busy, rural folks got their books.  …And the Bookmobile still travels ’round the county today, focusing its services on children and senior citizens who might not otherwise have access to library materials.

The Bookmobile didn’t travel to my family’s neck of the woods. Since the books didn’t come to us, we went to the books. Several times a week, in fact. (My two sisters, my mother, and I were keen on reading!)


LtoR: Lisey, me, and Beth reading our latest batch of books from the Washington County Free Library. circa 1970s

We usually frequented the Boonsboro branch of the Washington County Free Library, which at the time was a converted old bank building. At least once a month, we took a trip into town (Hagerstown, that is) to the main branch. Through the eyes of a youngster, the main branch seemed huge and formal—a special occasion place as I progressed from picture books to Nancy Drew books. With the passing of time, the main branch became nearly a daily destination as, during my college years, I advanced to the reference section and the study carrells on the second floor.

The main branch that I came to know so well on South Potomac Street was recently demolished and replaced (on the same site) with a brand new building. Its grand opening was Saturday, October 5, 2013. While I was in Hagerstown visiting my parents earlier this month, Mom and I stopped by to check out the new library, which is referred to as the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Branch.


The United States, Maryland, and Washington County flags proudly wave outside the new main branch of the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland.


The artwork behind the checkout counter of the Washington County Free Library is a nod to the past.


The spiral staircase is a central and serviceable feature of the new Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Branch of the Washington County Free Library. Straight overhead is an expansive skylight rotunda. Fantastic!

It’s a beautiful, light and airy library to be sure, yet I suspect that the next time I dream of rows and rows of Nancy Drew books—which I am known to do from time to time—their bindings will beckon to me from the grey metal shelves of the old, musty main branch.

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