Deb Abraham Spalding
Erin Dingle is more than just the Frederick County Government employee responsible for the management of the Thurmont Regional Library. She was a resident of Northern Frederick County for many years before migrating to Adams County and has always been an active contributor to the community. She was awarded the Thurmont Pomona Grange Community Citizen Award at a meeting on November 27, 2017, at the Grange Hall on East Main Street in Thurmont.
It has been her contribution to her beloved community to manage the Thurmont Library in a manner that best serves its residents. About the award, Erin expressed, “Thank you for this honor. I am blown away.”
Having been lured to the meeting under the ruse that she and some library staff members were going to give a presentation to the Grange members, Erin shared the history of the library. Before she could begin, an attendee shared, “Mrs. Bruchey [former librarian] threw her [Erin] out of the library because she talked too loud.” A laugh was shared, as Erin explained that the Thurmont Library was founded by a private group of citizens in 1956, with Mr. Ross V. Smith leading the way. Private citizens raised the money to open the library in a variety of ways, including hosting a circus at the American Legion and going door-to-door, collecting donations.
Beginning in February 1955, the Thurmont Library was first housed at the former Bobolitz property on West Main Street in Thurmont. In 1967, under the direction of Vic Jagow, the building on Water Street in Thurmont—that housed the former Moravian church (built in 1874 and operated until 1918), the former Weybright store, American store, and, at one point, a teen center—became the home of the library until 2008. Renovations to the building cost about $10,000 at that time. That site is now home to Thurmont’s Main Street Center.
The Thurmont Library was the only privately-owned branch in Frederick County. The windows from the original Moravian Church on Water Street are on display in the Agricultural Center at Thurmont Regional Library, which opened on East Moser Road in Thurmont in August of 2008. The funds from the sale of the former library on Water Street are managed by the Frederick County Community Foundation and are used for current library purposes, such as special events and programs.
The Thurmont Regional Library is a model in architecture and operation. People come from all over the state to visit the new library. It was voted the Most Amazing Library in the State of Maryland in a 2016 MSN Lifestyle poll. In addition to appealing architecture that showcases local history, the windows and a beautiful outdoor deck contribute to a comfortable environment for visitors at the library. Plans are underway to add a nature trail around the library.
Erin has enjoyed serving the community. With over thirty years in the library system, she has been a part of many changes. Beginning her career before computers, Erin filed actual library cards in the catalog in the original library. For most of her career, the library served as a reference center since there was no internet. Often, people were sent to Frederick to get what they needed. As time progressed, and the internet changed the way people access information, the library has changed. Now, it serves as a resource for information, but with more of a social element. Today, for staff, the focus is programming and outreach. “My co-workers are what make the library a special place,” Erin said. “They are ready and willing to help everyone who walks into our building. They all excel at customer service.” At the old Thurmont Library, Erin started a regular story time, held on Thursday mornings. Today, they are held almost every day of the week and for a variety of ages.
“Now, the library is more about bringing people together and community. Creating community partnerships is our primary goal,” shared Erin.
At the closing of her presentation, Erin expressed, “I love that library!”
Operationally, Erin is known for having a “happy ship” meaning that she manages the library as a supportive manager and friend to staff.
Friends of the Library members who were present expressed that Erin was on board and supportive of the Friends group from the very beginning. Ann Miller, President for the Friends said, “I’ve never seen her not being enthusiastic about an idea that somebody brought to her. She’s always said, “Yes, we can do that.”