Long overdue

Tiny Grantsville (pop. 619) is growing, and folks there hope to start a new chapter for the heart of their town -- the library.

February 26, 2002|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,SUN STAFF

GRANTSVILLE - The small-town librarian has to be a combination historian, genealogist, literary mentor, baby sitter, town guide, shopping aide, chief checkout clerk - even a puzzle master when a patron hands you a note asking for the book Catch Her in the Rye.

Maxine Beachy Broadwater performed all those functions with admirable gusto for about 31 years at the Grantsville branch of Garrett County's Ruth Enlow Library. Now she's taking on another one: fund-raiser for a new library building.

When Broadwater became the town's first librarian in 1959, the library was at one end of an old store and a bar was at the other end; confused patrons sometimes walked in the wrong door. She stayed on when the library moved in 1967 to a converted bank building on Grantsville's main street.

"I imagine we are the only library building in the state with a bulletproof drive-up window," Broadwater says.

And as town librarian, she never quite knew what requests she might get when the phone rang:

"Would you go across the street and see what the hours are at the barbershop?"

"Are the lights on at the Laundromat?"

"Would you go to Yoder's Locker Plant and purchase some homemade bread and put it on the bus to the Hagerstown Library?"

She accepted UPS packages for neighboring businesses, once even a gravestone for a funeral home. "I said I would, providing the body wasn't there," Broadwater recalls.

On one memorable day, a patron asked for the series of Revolutionary War historical novels by John Jakes. They were all on the shelf except for the first.

"When The Bastard comes back in I will call you," she told the astounded patron.

She's told that story for a decade or so.

"I loved my work," says Broadwater, 76. "There wasn't a day that I felt: `Oh, gee, I wish I didn't have to go to work.' "

Broadwater retired in 1991, but she's never been far from the library.

Kim Lishia, the present librarian, often calls on her when folks ask genealogical questions. Broadwater built up a nice genealogy collection while she was at the library, and she's a real authority on Grantsville family histories.

But these days Broadwater's main interest is the effort to raise money for the new library. She's a member of the ReNew Grantsville Library Committee, which aims to upgrade the tiny homey library she ran for so many years.

"We want to wind up with a state-of-the-art building, and that includes computer service," says Jack Caruthers, a retired construction consultant and another member of the committee.

About 1 1/2 years ago townsfolk came together and decided they needed a new library.

"The library board, the community, the library users, the workers, everybody," Broadwater says. "It was a community effort. I think you find this in all small towns more than in cities.

"You take the town park," she says. "Whenever they needed something for the park, the town came together."

People have given generously to the library fund - this in a county where the median household income is about $30,000, only two-thirds of the state median, and where about 16 percent of all people (and nearly a quarter of the children) live below the poverty line.

At last count, the committee had raised $175,273.35. It's aiming for $200,000 by April 15, when Garrett County adopts its new budget. The county commissioners have promised to match what the town raises dollar for dollar. A federal grant of $300,000 will bring the total to within sight of the $900,000 they'd like to have.

"The response is just really impressive," says Sheila Miller, co-chair of the committee. She lives in Grantsville and is principal of the elementary school in Accident, about 12 miles south.

"It's not a hard sell," says Caruthers, a longtime user of the library. "Very few people say no."

And it's downright phenomenal for a town the size of Grantsville, population 619.

Mayor Gerry Beachy says Grantsville is growing. He's also the town pharmacist and a distant cousin of Broadwater's. The area is awash with Broadwaters and Beachys. His shiny, bright drugstore looks to be slightly larger than the library. "We went up 25 percent over the previous census," he says, "the fastest-growing town in Garrett County.

"It's a pretty nice place to live," he says, mayorally.

But the library's circulation area includes between 5,000 and 15,000 people, depending on who's doing the estimating. It stretches into Pennsylvania, which is only five miles north. Elk Lick Township and a school district in Somerset County, Pa., both donated to the library fund. So did the Salisbury, Pa., VFW Post.

Doing their part

When the call went out about raising money for a new library, the folks in Grantsville responded the way Broadwater says folks do out here: Everyone doing their part. The local gas station matched every 25 cents donated by their customers with a quarter of its own, for a total of $1,000. The ReNew committee created a potato bar, where cheese, sour cream and other fixings are slathered on baked potatoes and sold. It raised $1,300.03.

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