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Arbutus Branch History


The Arbutus Library began in 1948 when local residents such as George Klein, Beatrice Williams and Elsie Ijams, discussed starting a local library with members of the Kiwanis Club and local business people. A library was created in the basement of the Arbutus Hardware store at 5417 East Drive. The Kiwanis gave $300; and a new floor was donated. A large table and 10 chairs were also acquired. Alberta Klein, George's wife, obtained more than 400 books from friends and local residents. Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Ijams would drive around picking up the donations. Each book was officially stamped by George and Alberta. Frances Herrmann, one of their 14 children, recalled "I remember Mother and Dad, late at night, stamping the book pages. I believe they stamped each book on page 17 and another page that I don't remember." This was done for sentimental reasons, as seventeen was the age that her mother married her father. On February 16, 1948, there were about 1500 books with more than 400 new children's books. 150 library cards were originally issued. Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Ijams devoted much time and energy to this project. They could always be found in the library greeting people and helping them to select a book.

he Arbutus-Halethorpe Free Library was such a great success that in the early 1950's it needed to move into larger quarters over the A&P supermarket, when it became a part of the Baltimore County Public Library system. Gloria Grikit, who retired as clerical supervisor in 1989, fondly recalled days over the A&P when she and the librarian found time to make slipcovers right in the library. In 1962 the library moved into a more modern building on Sulphur Spring Road, where it remained for 30 years.


As the community grew and changed so did the library and in 1992 it moved yet again into the Arbutus Business Center. This new building added space and made the library completely handicapped accessible.


On August 25, 2009, groundbreaking for a new $11 million library, community and senior center complex at 855 Sulphur Spring Road took place. On June 11, 2010, the Arbutus Library closed its doors at 1581 Sulphur Spring Road to begin to move to its new 25,000-square-foot location, which opened to the public on August 10, 2010. Located approximately one mile from its previous location, in addition to offering increased parking space and an expansion of the collection, this LEED silver certified "Green Building" includes a drive-up service window; a large meeting room replete with a projector and projection screen; a 3,000-square-foot children's area with a flat-screen TV for programming and a teen area. Throughout all these changes the Arbutus branch has remained a library with a small-town, friendly atmosphere. The "official opening" by Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith and other dignitaries took place on August 24, 2010.


 Arbutus Branch Memories 


I remember the pet contests held on the parking lot. Every contestant won a blue ribbon for something. I remember the Halloween programs when the children paraded thru the library in their costumes. I remember the haunted house created in the basement of the "old" library. I remember the big book sales & flea markets held out on the parking lot. I remember the Saturday they were giving flu shots in the Health Center under the library. Just about every person that received a flu shot borrowed something from the library. We were not prepared for the influx. I remember wading thru all the pollsters when they had voting booths in the basement of the library.--G. Ries


In 1948 at age 10 I joined the Arbutus Library. I received one of the first cards. It was located in the basement of the Arbutus Hardware store and it was very nice. Mrs. Williams was the librarian, Mrs. Ijams was the clerk. Mrs. Williams gave me a great love for books and she was a great librarian. I read every dog and horse story that they had. It was a really nice place to go as a little girl and now 60 years later I work here. It is great and we are blessed to have this facility.--G. E. Lewis


I'm not sure if May 7, 1998 is too recent to qualify as a memory of the Arbutus Library, but what occurred there on that date brought back many 50 year old personal memories for me. Recently, my daughter had my picture and service record from World War II placed in the Navy Log Online computer at the Navy Memorial in Washington D.C. This computer is on the internet. I saw that picture and service record for the first time on an Arbutus Library computer on that date. My special thanks to librarian Mrs. Ellen Ray for assisting me at the computer and for providing me with a print out of that document. Also I wish to thank all the librarians, past and present who have assisted me in various ways during my fifty years of visiting the Arbutus Library.--W. E. Pfeifer


Occasionally there are some customers that come in the category of "characters". We had this one customer that whenever he came into the library he had this habit of calling me "Reds" and telling another staff member "Why do you have dark circles under your eyes?" He would want to occasionally try & tell us something "off color". So one day I was on the return desk and I saw this customer coming into the library. I sort of drifted back to the workroom (unbeknownst to me, the girl with the dark circles under her eyes saw him too). We both almost got stuck in the doorway trying to avoid him. We wound up behind the door in the workroom. Seeing my co-worker (Jean), I said, "Well! what are you doing here?" (We both started laughing and to this day it is one of my favorite memories). --P. Wagner


One of my favorite stories is of the "virgin". I was helping a hard of hearing senior citizen, who spoke very loudly, to fill out an application for a dog tag. I asked her if the dog was spayed, "You know fixed." She replied loudly that "There was no need for me to be fixed, as I am a virgin." I explained that I wasn't talking about her but I was asking about the dog. She then told me that neither she nor the dog was "fixed" as both of them were still virgins.--G. Ries


As a maintenance worker for the library, I have one memory and it happened about a year ago. I was changing door handles on the staff restroom, when the door closed and the handle fell off. This is normal except I was inside with no tools, so I had to call for help through the key hole. Fortunately someone was in the room next door and was able to hand me a screwdriver to open the door with. Since then I change all door knobs from the outside.--R. Broadnax


I have visited libraries thru out the states between Maine and Florida. I always manage to obtain local information as well as the latest read. I have yet to meet a librarian I did not like. Having said this, I must tell you the librarians at Arbutus are my favorites! You are proficient as well a efficient and the overall treatment is just like best friends. (They are attractive as well!) I have great respect and admiration for the work and service of each librarian and it is always a joy for me to visit!--W. Bradshaw


A friendship started over 50 years ago with Elsie Ijams. We met at Arbutus Methodist Church and she asked me to help at daily bible school. I had 2 girls and she had a son, we worked & had a friendship that lasted until she passed away. Elsie & Bea Williams helped at Arbutus Elementary school & started a library at the hardware store on East Drive. Elsie's son took books on his way to the library that she and Bea started in the late 40's. They then moved to a bigger place on East drive over the A & P store a couple blocks up from the hardware store. Elsie read to children every Saturday morning at this library. I put my children on a bus & she would meet the bus & take them to the library, they were 7 and 8 years old. The next place the library was at Sulphur Spring Road, we made good use of the library, I worked there part time in the 70's. Bea and Elsie were more than giving their dedication to the library. They were both retired from the library that they helped to start in the 40's - until they left in the late 70's and early 80's. I miss them still and hope this helps in the 50 year anniversary of the library. Good luck & by the way I still visit the library when I can.--H. J. Masenheimer


I remember my mom, Brenda Miller, taking me to programs at the old library as young or younger than 3. My favorite was and still is the Summer Reading Club program. I started before there was a "Read-to-me" program. I appreciate all the friendly librarians who work and did work at the Arbutus Library. I am very happy to give something back to the "Summer Reading Club program" by volunteering as a "Summer Reader Clubhelper."--K. Miller


I always loved to read and it was my best school subject. My best Saturday afternoons were spent in a dark corner of the Arbutus Library reading books like "Big Red" and "Moffat in the Middle." Dad would drop me off outside and I'd climb the dark stairway and turn right to avoid the pungent odor of the beauty parlor at the top of the stairs. On days I didn't spend curled up on the rug in the corner of this treasury of books, I'd spend 5 cents on a Highs ice cream cone or 25 cents on a matinee movie at the Hollywood. I was proud to carry my Arbutus Library card in my Lassie wallet. As a student in Elementary Education courses at UMBC I coped with automating the card catalog by scrolling A-Z on the archaic, huge, self-service machine. I loved learning PC skills on the keyboard, "quick" library Catalog as a veteran teacher at the "new" library across the street. In all locations, the librarians were helpful to me and my children and I'm thankful. My 3rd graders read the Nancy Drew stories I had to buy with my birthday money in the 1950's. (The public library didn't carry such "generic" literature.) Times have changed and imagine renting a movie with a library card! --P. T. Distefano


I never did like heights, but I loved playing dress up. The library had a Halloween costume party and I had my favorite costume on. My dilemma was that the function was held in the cellar down a long, dark flight of stairs. I fought my fear and descended to quietly watch the affair. Mom took my brother and I to all special events for children at the Arbutus Library.--A. Distefano


I finally turned 12 and wanted to earn some spending money. The library led a Red Cross Babysitting class but it was on my birthday! I spent the whole day listening, learning, and practicing CPR on the dummy so I could be a certified, card carrying babysitter for all the little kids on my street all summer. I thank the library for this chance even if it was on my birthday. I loved the homemade ice cream making day. My picture was in the Times with my tongue licking my lips. I got up in the front of the line and it was lots of fun at the library.--L. Distefano


I worked as a page in the Arbutus Library from 1969-1971. It was my first job and I absolutely loved it! I have always been an avid reader and to have a job working with books was pure joy! I remember Mrs. Ijams, Mrs. DeBoy and Mrs. Birdsong, the librarian. There was a real family atmosphere among the staff. In my senior year of high school, the boy who was going to take me to my senior prom cancelled the date. One of the other pages, a nice young man named Bernie, took me to my senior prom. I've never forgotten his kindness. --D. R. Christianson


My family and I moved to the Arbutus area in the early 50's. I seem to remember going to the library up a stairway over the old A & P store on East Drive. There was a large room with tables of books and shelves around the sides. There was a drug store down stairs next to the stairway. My girls were only about 3 and 5 years old at the time. Does anyone else remember this? I think Mrs. Williams was the librarian at that time. We always loved to go to the library. My youngest daughter got a job there when she was old enough. She was a page and helped out when Catonsville opened their new library. After she graduated from high school, she graduated from Western Maryland College and had a career with Bell Atlantic. The other daughter went to work for the Telephone Company and now is with St. Agnes Hospital for over 23 years. So you can see they gained a lot from the education they received in Arbutus and the library, and we all love to read. In re-verifying this with my younger daughter, she remembered not being allowed to take out her book selection. She came home & told me and I went down & told the librarian to let her have the book. She was 10 years old and a very precocious reader. It was a teen-age adventure book, and after that they let her take out whatever she wanted. There were no so-called "bad" books in the library in those days, anyway. The ladies were looking after our kids, however. Last, but far from least are my memories of Mrs. Dale Dyson. She was a lovely lady and so helpful in finding a book that I liked. She liked to read the same type of book I did and always had a suggestion for me. She died far before her time and is greatly missed. If I remember correctly, she also started the coupon box.--R. Phelps


My favorite memory was when I first took out a book. I remember it like it was today, it was the Cat in the Hat. It was a great book and that was also the day I got my first library card. I felt so special and grown up it was a great day. Oh, and I shouldn't say it but a lady that worked there, said have a nice day. But since I was new she showed me all the sections and now the library is one of my favorite places to go. I also want to thank you for your kindness and support and don't forget the good books.--M. C.


One of my favorite memories as a librarian at the Arbutus Branch was of a special patron who regularly came in to look for books. As an elderly woman she would walk to the library from her home nearby, at least once a week. She lived alone with her two little dogs for company. But her favorite books didn't fit her image at all! She loved espionage novels and suspenseful mysteries. She was a prolific reader and would share with us all her tips on the best books she had read. She had a good sense of humor and was always glad to see us and ask us how we were. Frances Hallmayer died on January 25, 1997. I still miss seeing her and will always remember her fondly.--S. Fridrich


My best memories of the library are of the staff and customers I have worked with. One of our favorites is Mr. Ray Norris. For years he has come to the library and supplied us with donuts and pastries! I'm sure this has helped us perform better in our jobs! As a retired gentleman he was a very talented wood craftsman. He always offered us his latest creations at special prices. Many of us still have clocks, birdhouses and other beautiful woodworks he made in our homes. When we moved into our new building he gave us napkin holders and a paper towel roller for out staff lounge. He often comes in just to say hello and brighten up our day.--S. Fridrich


My memories at Arbutus library are funny and cool. Because when I was 5 it was my first time here. I did not know how to use a computer, so I just hit the keys and nothing would happen. So I went to the information desk and the librarian who helped me was very helpful and nice. Ever since then I love coming to the library. --T. Brown




Revised: July 13, 2015