The North Baltimore Public Library will host a public celebration at 2 p.m. Sunday, 100 years to the day of its opening. Pictured is Mary Fowles, who helped organize the library in 1918 and became its librarian in 1919. When Fowles died in 1941, the library stated, “Our school and indeed our entire community suffered a great loss with her passing.” (Photo courtesy of the North Baltimore Public Library)


Staff Writer

NORTH BALTIMORE — Patrons of the North Baltimore Public Library will see some changes as the library prepares to celebrate its 100th birthday.

One major difference is a new fine-free policy that was instituted by the board in December. The move, in part, is to thank the public for using the library for 100 years, said director Holly Emahiser Ryder.

“We’re hoping it brings patrons back into the library,” she said.

On Sunday, March 10 — exactly 100 years to the day after the library opened — there will be a public celebration at 2 p.m. The event will include remarks by Randy Gardner, chancellor of higher education for Ohio; North Baltimore Mayor Janet Goldner; library board president Rick Van Mooy; and Emahiser Ryder. There will also be historical displays, a performance by the North Baltimore High School Jazz Band and cake and punch for guests.

The library is located at 113 E. Broadway.

Emahiser Ryder said another celebration for youth will center around National Library Week in April, and during the summer reading program.

“We’ll celebrate all year long,” she said. “The community has put a lot of work into the library. It’s one of the little gems of the community.”

Modern offerings

The library has grown from a collection of 500 books provided by a community book drive in 1919 to over 70,000 items today, including books, e-books, periodicals, CDs and DVDs.

Emahiser Ryder said there are nearly 3,900 registered borrowers, and the library welcomes nearly 50,000 visitors each year.

She sees the library as a community center now, noting its monthly craft programs for adults, along with book clubs and film screenings.

“We want to be your ultimate entertainment hub,” she said. “If you want media, if you want crafting, we have it.”

When possible, the library partners with other organizations in town to provide programming. The library recently started an e-cards program that allows school students to download e-books. That has prompted a jump in the number of e-book downloads, Emahiser Ryder noted.

“So it’s great for us, but it’s great for them, too. If they can’t get to the library, they still have that resource. They can still access material,” she said.

The North Baltimore library is part of WoodLink, a group of 11 Wood County libraries. This gives patrons access to 83 online magazines through Flipster.

The library also offers, which offers online courses thanks to the Ohio Library Council and the Ohio Public Library Information Network. Anyone with an Ohio public library card can access all of’s content from any computer with an internet connection. There are over 6,000 courses available, many of which provide certification upon completion.

Summer is the library’s busiest time of year. More than 420 children, teens and adults participated in the 2018 summer reading program.

Storytimes are also popular. Emahiser Ryder said the library makes use of a Smartboard and videos during these events.

Santa Claus visited with the children in December, and a resident offered mini train rides for the children.

“We get great community donations,” she said. “We can’t say enough about how this community supports this small-town library.”

‘Have a snack’

The library sees a lot of children come through its doors after school. Two years ago, staff instituted a snack program supported through community donations.

“So every day after school, we have snacks set out. It’s so nice to see the kids. They put their phones down. They wash their hands. They have a snack and they sit around the table and they converse,” Emahiser Ryder said.

Some months, over 400 snacks are provided.

“And if a child asks, ‘Can I take a snack for breakfast tomorrow morning?’ there’s no questions asked. ‘Yes, of course you can,'” she said.

In the summer, snacks are offered in the mornings and afternoons.

“So if there was a need, and even if there’s not a need, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “Some kids just come to game on the computers and if they want a snack, have a snack.”

The staff is proud to offer the program, Emahiser Ryder said, adding that it’s a great opportunity to sit down and talk with the kids.

“They’re our future library patrons,” she said. “There’s nothing better than seeing a full library.”

In the future, Emahiser Ryder would like to create a gaming area for teens and ultimately, a place to host tournaments.

The library also has an active Friends group that holds two book sales a year, along with other fundraisers.

“Their whole purpose is to give back to the library,” she said.

The group provides funds for prizes, and purchased a refrigerator for the Wolfe Community Room.

Emahiser Ryder added that the library will be wearing its best face for the centennial celebration after receiving a $7,700 grant from the Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative Community Trust Fund. Money was used to paint the library’s interior and this spring, the sidewalks out front will be repaired. The library also got new air conditioning units and energy-efficient lighting.

“We want people to feel at home when they come into the library, a place to relax,” she said. “We want it to be convenient enough that it can be a quick-stop bookstore if they want to pop in. But if they want to sit and browse and enjoy the library for several hours, they can. We want to be able to offer both.”

Chronicling a collection, from records to remodel

Staff Writer

NORTH BALTIMORE — According to village historian Bonnie Knaggs, a group of North Baltimore volunteers set out to organize a public library in December 1918. But it wasn’t until March 10, 1919, that the group had received enough contributions and money to open the library at 113 Broadway in a room donated rent-free by local businessman J.A. Gibson.

Mary Fowles was the first librarian and earned a salary of $50 a month. She served in that position for 22 years, until 1941.

On opening day, the library had 500 books on its shelves and $700 in operating funds, said Knaggs. More than 200 books were loaned out in the first week.

In 1927, the library was reorganized as a school district library. A new board of trustees was appointed by the North Baltimore Board of Education.

When a new school building was constructed on South Second Street that year, a special area was set aside for the library. However, the library gradually outgrew its original room in the south wing of the school, and another room adjacent to the original one was provided.

By 1955, the library needed to expand, and there was no additional room available at the school. Officials began planning for a building dedicated to the library, and purchased lots at the corner of Main and Walnut streets. To make room for construction, two residences that formerly stood on the property were moved to other areas of town.

The original portion of the library was dedicated in 1958 with a collection of 25,000 books, as well as magazines, newspapers and records. The library had a separate room where patrons could listen to records, and a record player was available for borrowing for three days.

As an additional service, the library operated a school branch and employed a fully trained and qualified librarian to insure credit for the school in the North Central Association.
By 1962, more space was again needed. An addition was built on the east side of the building, nearly doubling the original floor space and including a magazine storage room, more space for book stacks and a garage.

Further renovations came in 1979, when an addition to the south side was completed. That added the Bower/Brown conference room, the Fowles/Mong media room and the creation of the Betty A. Thompson art and music room.

In 1987, three additional properties to the south of the library were purchased, including the Rippeth-Hare Funeral Home, Troutner Electric and the Sweebe-Miller building. These were razed to make way for a new community room. The former community room was converted to a separate space for a children’s area.

Knaggs noted that the North Baltimore Area Historical Center house directly across the street from the library is also owned by the library’s board of trustees. Action to purchase the historic house was taken in 1998. The artifacts, memorabilia and pictures located in the house are owned by the historical center.

An extensive remodeling and redecorating project was celebrated in 2003. The project cost was over $200,000, which was paid for from stock left to the library by the late Grace Bower and her daughter, Mary. Bower had served as vice president of the original library board in 1919 and later became president. She was a 50-year board member.

Wolf: 419-427-8419

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