The Baltimore County Public Library came into being as a library system in 1948. Before then, library service in the county was provided by a growing number of independent libraries run by woman's clubs and other civic organizations in the community. At times these independents received small grants from the County Commissioners.
The first public library in Baltimore County was started in 1915 in Reisterstown with money from the Algernon Tillard endowment fund. Named the Tillard Memorial Library, it was located in the Franklin High School.
Next to open was the Relay Community Library established in 1929 by the Baltimore District of the Federated Woman's Clubs.
- Sparrows Point
The Sparrows Point Library opened on February 1, in quarters provided by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. It received a $1,000 grant from the county in 1943.
The library at Towson was sponsored by the Woman's Club of Towson. It opened on May 1, 1936 and received its first appropriation from the county that year. The grand total was 300 dollars. The first librarian was born and raised on the site of the current Towson Library.
Friends of the Dundalk Library organized in 1940 and opened a one-room library in the Dunkirk Building. the Towson Library donated shelving and 600 books. It received a 1,000 dollars county appropriation in 1941.
The Catonsville Library, also a woman's club project, was incorporated in 1941 and received a $1,000 appropriation from the county. It was located at the Banneker High School.
- Middle River
The Middle River Library was started in December 1944 under the sponsorship of the Vil-gar Community Club. The first public funds, 800 dollars, were received in 1945. The library was located in the Community Building, a center for community activities owned by the federal government.
The Pikesville Library began operation in 1946 under the sponsorship of the Memorial Library Association, Inc. Known as the Pikesville Memorial Library, it was established in honor of men and women from the area who served in the armed forces during World War II. The County Commissioners gave the new library a $3,500 grant.
In 1947, citizens led by Frances Bourn organized the Friends of the Essex Public Library. Books were gathered in a drive and a library was opened on July 1, in a room of the Essex School. In September, it moved to an apartment that was donated rent free for one year. In January 1948, after six months of successful operation the Essex Public Library was granted public funds totaling 3,423 dollars.
The Cockeysville Homemakers Club and the Cockeysville Improvement Society conducted a community drive that saw volunteer workers rise funds as well as solicit and collect donations of books to open a library. On May 5, 1947, a library was established in temporary quarters on the second floor of the Tyrie Building on York Road, just north of the former underpass.
On February 15, 1948, the library moved to a room on the ground floor in the rear of the Modern Equipment Building across the street from the original building. Initially the library was run by volunteers directed by staff from the Towson Library. Eventually, sufficient funds were raised by the Homemakers and others in the community to pay for a local librarian. Miss Helen Howard took over the duties of librarian in July, but when she returned to Goucher in the fall she gave up the position. She was replaced by Mrs. William Siedell.
Public funds in the amount of $873 were administered through the Towson Library in 1948. In December 1949, the moved from the fringe of the village of Cockeysville to larger and more central quarters in the former Zink residence, a small house located near a drugstore and the Cockeysville School on York Road.
The Arbutus-Halethorpe Library was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club and received public funding during 1948.
- Turner Station
Prior to 1948, a library was also established in Turner Station, which together with the Dundalk Library was circulating 66,117 books annually by 1948.
These independent efforts proved to the County Commissioners that there was a demand for library service. The need to consolidate, to provide uniformity and economy was also evident. Although the state library law passed in 1945 had authorized counties to establish a public library, no steps had been taken in Baltimore County to qualify for state aid under the law.
In 1948 the County Commissioners appointed a six-member Advisory Committee to recommend a course of action. Acting with lightning speed, in February 1948 the committee unanimously recommended the establishment of a single library system under the provisions of the state law. In March 1948, Christian Kahl, president of the County Commissioners, announced to all independent libraries receiving county funds that the recommendation had been adopted, and the governor, William Preston Lane, had been requested to appoint a Board of Library Trustees for Baltimore County. The members of the first board were: G. Clyde Andrew, James E. Codey, Albert D. Hutzler, J.B. Myers, Mrs. G. Wm. Sattler, Giles Sydnor, and Irwin P. Trail.
The board's first challenge was to consolidate the 12 independent libraries into one operating system. In accordance with the library law which called for a County Librarian to administer the system, the board began the search and hired Richard D. Minnich in January 1949.
Since then much as changed, new technology and services have been added. The Baltimore County Public Library system now includes 19 libraries and 4 bookmobiles. Additional histories of a few of our libraries, such as Hereford, Parkville, Perry Hall, and White Marsh are available and others are being written.
Written by Lynn Wheeler, Previous Assistant Director for the Baltimore County Public Library
Material for this article was found in The Public Library, Baltimore County, Maryland, Annual Report, 1948