By Keith Meisel, firstname.lastname@example.org
2:19 PM EST, February 14, 2012
It's a big area to search.
As the second-newest branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, the Arbutus Library features 25,000 square feet of space for more 110,000 items, several meeting rooms and a large computer area, as well as areas for children's, teens' and adult collections.
Last week, nearly two dozen young visitors to the branch checked out nearly every square inch of the facility on Sulphur Spring Road that opened in August 2010.
The 21 predominantly elementary-school aged visitors were taking part in the first Black History Month Scavenger Hunt that ended Feb. 11 at the branch.
The hunt, which began Feb. 6, involved finding five posters depicting the images and short biographies of black Americans with ties to the area who are buried at nearby Arbutus Memorial Park.
"We're fortunate to have a cemetery next door where a number of relatively well-known African-Americans are buried," said Librarian Tina Pickens.
Pickens said Kim Preis, the programming coordinator at the library, visited the cemetery office and returned with a list of those buried there that included jazz drummer "Chick" Webb, Baseball Hall of Famer Leon Day, Arctic explorer Herbert Frisby, Baltimore businessman Henry Parks and WJZ-TV newscaster Al Saunders.
Hunt participants would pick up a sheet that contained the five names and clues as to the location of each poster.
The clue for Frisby, the second black man to ever go to the North Pole, referred to "teens" while the clue for Webb, who hired a teenaged Ella Fitzgerald to sing with his group in 1935, had the words "music CD's" in boldface on the sheet.
The clue for Parks, whose sausage company was the first black-owned business to go public on the stock exchange, alluded to "newspapers," and the clue for Day, who died six days after his pitching exploits in the Negro Leagues were recognized by the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, was "window."
"It covered the whole branch," said Pickens
Once the poster was found, the children had to write the color of the poster's background on the sheet.
"There were some brothers and sisters, so it got a little competitive," Pickens said.
When they returned their completed sheet to the information desk, they received a pencil and a bookmark that listed famous black Marylanders, such as scientist-mathematician-surveyor Benjamin Banneker and Harriet Tubman of Underground Railroad fame.
"Everyone who participated seemed to have a good time, running around the library," she said. "We're very pleased with the number we had."
Arbutus was one of the few libraries in Baltimore County that had a special activity for Black History Month.
Most of the 18 branches had special book displays, according to Bob Hughes, a spokesman for the county library system.
The Essex Library had a special display on the Tuskegee Airmen, the Woodlawn Library hosts a film series and the Friends of the Pikesville Library hosted Baltimore County black historian Louis Diggs, Hughes said.
Given the response this year after the tepid response to last year's trivia quiz, Assistant Library Manager Erin Oh said the chances of another hunt commemorating Black History Month at the Arbutus Library are good.
"We will do it next year," she said.