Representatives from Mount Airy Public Library board of trustees gathered at the library’s open house Monday night to announce the official launch of their new fundraising campaign for books, “More Books Please,” which will continue through September.
The open house event was a kick-off celebration of National Library Week.
“We are asking the citizens and businesses of the greater Mount Airy community to become familiar with the mission of the campaign, and then to join us in making the campaign a success,” said a written statement issued by Steve Scott, chairperson of the library’s board of trustees. “The mission is to improve the quality of life of every citizens within the service area of the Mount Airy Public Library.”
The board members said they are asking local industries, businesses, and individuals to contribute monetarily to the campaign.
Board member Kelly Merritt said all donations will be used to purchase new books for the library. The goal for the campaign is $100,000.
Branch Librarian Pat Gwyn said $50,000 was raised during the last campaign, which was in 2007. At the time the money was raised, plans were made to use $10,000 per year to supplement the book budget, but the library was able to stretch the budget to six years.
Funds received from the campaign will “enrich and modernize the collection of children’s books; modern and classical fiction; biographies; histories and other non-fiction books; business books for citizens who are researching new career or entrepreneurial opportunities; the many research collections; and large print and electronic books for citizens who need these formats,” said Scott.
A brief history of the Mount Airy Public Library
Ray Bradbury once wrote, “Without libraries what are we? We have no past and no future.”
The Mount Airy Public Library has served Mount Airy and surrounding areas for more than 80 years. The library not only offers books from its collection, but an expanded collection from other libraries throughout the Northwestern Regional Library System. In addition it offers movies, computers, free library events and programs.
The library began in 1930 with the help of the Mount Airy Woman’s League, a group that continues to support the library today, along with the Junior Woman’s League.
The original library was housed in two rooms of the community building, which was located on Rockford Street in an old house that once belonged to William Merritt Jr., directly across the street from what is now the Mount Airy Public Library, in the location of the police department. It was open from 1930 to 1971.
The first library expanded from two rooms and later added a work area for repair of books, a children’s book room, a local history room, and even a hallway which was filled “floor to ceiling with books,” according to a column written by R.J. Berrier for The Mount Airy News in September of 1990.
Branch Librarian Pat Gwyn said most of the books in the original library were collected by the woman’s league from members of the community. Funds were raised for the library through popular magazine subscription sales. The first library began with 2,000 books, according to a January 1961 article in The Mount Airy News.
Many in the community fondly remembered Librarian Louise Ball, whom Berrier described as “the perfect picture of a librarian.” Berrier said Mrs. Ball “Was the Mount Airy Public Library. She enforced the dictum that ‘Silence was golden.’ She was a disciplinarian without peer. She ran the library with firmness, kindness, affection, and understanding.”
During the times of the Great Depression and World War II, the government did not provide much money to the library, and Mrs. Ball was known to purchase new books with her own money. At that time, the library had a rental shelf, and there was a small fee to rent the new books. After interest lessened, the book would be added to the free shelves.
The first library was outgrown quickly, said Gwyn, who had only worked there for one month before the library began its move to a new location: the Sparger/Kochtitzky House on West Pine Street, which has since been used as a day care facility as well as a private home. Gwyn was still in high school when she began working for the library. In fact, she missed the move because she was on a trip with her high school class to Washington, D.C.
The Sparger/Kochtitzky House was donated to the library by Mrs. E.H. Kochtitzky — she willed the property to the library after she passed away, either for use as a library or as a way to gain funds by selling the old home.
Many area residents recalled the “book lift” in 1971, where area residents, schoolchildren, boy and girl scouts, and Woman’s League and Junior League members carried all the books from the old location at the Merritt house to the new location, assisted by Mount Airy police officers who conducted traffic. The “book lift” was described by R.J. Berrier in a September 1990 article of the Mount Airy News as a group of library supporters who ranged in ages from toddler to senior citizens, many who carried books by the arm load.
Gwyn said she still has library patrons who come in and tell her they were part of the book move.
“The late Miss Alma Sparger, a retired schoolteacher and Mrs. Kochtitzky’s sister, remembered the move years later, particularly the small children involved…two-and-a-half or three-years-old…carrying one paperback book. They would deposit their burden and immediately head back to the Rockford Street site for another,” wrote Berrier.
Gwyn remembered the Sparger House fondly: “The atmosphere of Mrs. Kochtitzky’s house was great. We did programming outside on the wrap-around porch and the children’s room was completely separated upstairs. The elevator was unique — we did not ride it, but used it to move carts of returned books upstairs for shelving…people often did not know it was there because upstairs it looked like a closet. I loved the staircase and often after a children’s program the kids would be lined to the top with armloads of books to be checked out.”
Gwyn said the entire staff was excited to have more room and the separate rooms of the house had an added bonus: “It was very quaint to have a mystery room, a western room, and a biography room all to themselves. Later, when we moved to the current location, these genres were merged in with all the fiction and that was a loss all on its own.”
The new library opened in 1982, this time with more than 20,000 books. The new library had outgrown the book lift, and a moving company was hired to move all the books and furniture.
The library was a structure built with solar design and in a modern style of architecture, constructed out of Mount Airy granite to match the city’s municipal building next door. At the time of construction it was one of the first libraries using a solar design and was considered one of the finest solar libraries in the nation. It also added a multi-purpose room which continues be widely-utilized.
Board of trustee members hope library patrons and businesses will consider the long history of the Mount Airy Public Library and the impressions it has made on the citizens of this community, and consider making a financial gift to the campaign.
Reach Jessica Johnson at email@example.com or 719-1933.