While the Libraries opened late today (12/11/23), the Holiday Open House scheduled at the Main Library will still take place as planned at 5:00!

Search: Vega Catalog  Website    

Fall at last!

Fall at last, and there’s a lot going on at our Library!

First off, our Chromebook distribution program continues, thanks to the amazing grantwriting skills of the folks at the County.  Each qualifying household in the County is able to obtain one free Chromebook computer to keep from any of our locations during our regular opening hours – see this site for more information on the documents needed and for the application.  We’re glad to be part of helping to close the digital divide in Garrett County!

We also continue to give away free COVID tests thanks to the supportive people at the Garrett County Health Department, and with cases on the rise it’s good to have some on hand to keep yourself and others healthy.  Stop by anytime, but if you think you may be sick, please call the branch and we’ll arrange to bring some out to you!

While you’re in, be sure to pick up a copy of this year’s “One Maryland, One Book” title, There There by Tommy Orange.  It’s a very engaging and thoughtful look at urban Native American identity through the eyes of a varied cast of characters.  We’d love to have you join us for a chat about it as well – see this site for the upcoming book discussion dates. 

I did have a bit of bad news to announce this time, I’m afraid.  Hoopla has been an excellent resource and one that a lot of people in the community enjoy, but in order to continue to provide all the resources you have come to expect, the library now needs to institute a daily cap on Hoopla checkouts.  Budgetary constraints make this a necessary step.  If while using Hoopla you receive a message that the daily cap has been reached for the day, simply come back the next day to complete your checkout. We want everyone to maintain fair access to the great things Hoopla has to offer, but have to manage our limited resources responsibly.  We appreciate your understanding!

We do have good news to report as well, though.  First off, our Friendsville patrons will be happy to hear that the Library has signed a contract with the architects Murphy and Dittenhafer (who recently completed work on the LaVale Library) and a new Friendsville building is in the design phase.  We greatly appreciate the support of the Town of Friendsville, who donated the property to the project, bringing us that much closer to a brand new library for you all to enjoy!

We also recently completed our 2022-23 Annual Report, and we saw significant year-over-year increases in Library use in most metrics.     A total of 117,590 patrons visited the Library during this period, an increase of 16.9% over the previous year, and 21.3% more new library cards were created.  The number of Library programs offered increased 23.2%, while over 15,000 people attended these events over the course of the year, an increase of over 10%.   Our Summer Reading Club this year also had record numbers for participation - we’re glad to see so many people discovering what the Library has for them!  The report can be found on this page for your perusal.

I have also been hard at work putting together a new Strategic Plan based on the surveys, focus groups and conversations we’ve been having with you and with our partners, staff, friends and Board - look forward to seeing this soon!  The years ahead will certainly be busy for us, but we will make our Library that much better for it!


Book Reviews from REL:


African Founders:  How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals

By David Hackett Fischer

Published by Simon and Schuster

Reviewed by Clinton Bradley

When asked, Pulitzer Prize winning author and native Marylander Fischer said that this book was 50 years of research.  It is his life’s work.  Fischer is a historian who knows that the important aspect of history is not just dates and times, but how the people that lived them influence the present.  The book is arranged by geographical regions.  It details how different areas treated slaves, the horrors they endured, and shows how much our current culture has benefited from their efforts even as they were enslaved.  It is a deeply and thoroughly researched book and the way history should be written so we can appreciate what we experience in the present.  It is eye opening and engaging.  A long book, but one that I found easy to keep reading.  There is much now that I will no longer take for granted.


Oscar Wars:  A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat and Tears

By Michael Schulman

Published by HarperCollins

Reviewed by Thomas Vose

This was an extremely enjoyable book.  I’m not a huge fan of the Oscars, especially now that it’s all fought out in dueling marketing campaigns, but the stories and personalities described here are all fascinating.  Schulman begins with the Academy’s origins as a way to head off unionization and the Hays Code, and moves through its key personalities and stories over the decades:  Frank Capra’s rise from parvenu to rebel, the impact of World War II, Gloria Swanson and Bette Davis facing off, the blacklist of the Cold War era, the rise of a new generation in “Easy Rider” and “Midnight Cowboy,” the disastrous 1989 Oscars, and the rise and fall of Harvey Weinstein.  Schulman ends with a great discussion of the few Black winners throughout the Oscars’ history and a look at the modern era and the push to recognize diverse filmmaking.  Just a great, well-written overview for cinephiles.  (And yes, “the slap” is there.)


Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island

By Earl Swift

Published by HarperCollins

Reviewed by Clinton Bradley

Tangier Island is a place under assault by the wind and waves of the Chesapeake and by neglect from the state.  The expansive title is accurate in that it is the unique culture that is at risk.  Less known than Smith Island, Tangier is home to those who try to live at peace with each other, appreciative of their roots, and make their living from the Chesapeake.  Although I did not grow up there, I did grow up surrounded by Watermen and on the Chesapeake.  In reading this book, I could literally hear the sounds, smell the smells, and see the waves, boats, and people.  The book for me is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.  I am so appreciative of the author for providing me the opportunity to cherish what I consider my indigenous culture once again.  I sincerely hope that a Chesapeake Requiem is not the future.


What the Dead Know: Learning About Life as a New York City Death Investigator

By Barbara Butcher

Published by Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by Lori Stemple

Barbara Butcher attended more than 5000 death scenes during her 20 years with the NYC Medical Examiner’s Office. In her memoir, she explains that she unexpectedly found her life’s work, in a profession she had never considered, after receiving treatment for addiction issues. She describes her medico-legal investigation responsibilities, involving working with police to determine what happened and providing answers for families. In a very readable way, she talks about some of the death scenes she investigated, which included Ground Zero after the 9-11 attacks, and how they affected her and her colleagues. She also describes the walls that people who do these kinds of jobs have to build and the toll they take on their lives. She has written a book about her experiences with death in a way that is interesting, personal, and sometimes funny, but never disrespectful.


John Muir: And the Ice that Started a Fire

By Kim Heacox

Published by Lyons Press

Reviewed by Clinton Bradley

President Theodore Roosevelt was so influenced by his meeting of John Muir that he started what would become the National Parks.  So, what influenced John Muir?  Muir lived at a time when not much was known about Alaska except it was where a gold rush had occurred in 1880.  It was not a tourist destination.  The book documents the many interests of John Muir, paramount among them were glaciers.  This biography is of a fascinating man who was an inventor, scientist and eventually activist for a challenged and disappearing world of wonder.  He traveled to Alaska many times to see his cherished glaciers, and his passion has bequeathed to us an invaluable inheritance.  To get to know the man behind this is one of life’s pleasures that reading a biography of someone who died in 1914 allows us to see the world as he saw it during his time.


Indigenous Content:  The Epic Contest for North America

by Pekka Hämäläinen

Published by Liveright

Reviewed by Karl Schwalm

As a young boy, the American Indian always fascinated me.  Pekka Hamalainen details a history of Native Americans, mainly from the time of the arrival of the first Europeans until the end of the 19th Century.  The story is similar to what I learned in school, where the Europeans gradually destroyed the Indian culture with broken treaties and superior weapons in order to expand across North America.  The Native Americans sided with the Europeans when it worked for them, playing the French, Spanish and English off one another, but eventually succumbed because they didn’t work together.  I learned that there were hundreds of tribes, each with different cultures and languages, with women in many making some of the major decisions.  Diseases from Europe may have been the biggest factor in the fall of the Native Americans, with smallpox and measles sometimes wiping out over half of the population of a tribe.  To this day there is still a disconnect between Native American and European American Society.