"A little library, growing larger every year, is an honorable part of a man's possessions. A library is not a luxury. It is one of the necessities of a full life." (Henry Ward Beecher, 1813-1887)
Given that perspective, the acclaimed American clergyman and abolitionist would have been delighted with Hereford Library, which has grown from since it opened 25 years ago and is now an honorable part of the North County culture.
When it first started loaning books on Oct. 3, 1988, the small branch on York Road in Hereford was open 46 hours a week and had about 12,000 items on its shelves. Today, the library's doors are open 69 hours a week and customers can take their pick from some 43,000 books, magazines, DVDs and CDs.
The public is invited to celebrate the library's 25th anniversary with two events. The first is a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 4. The evening includes wine and cheese, music and a used book sale.
Oct. 5 has activities for the whole family, including a Shazam Magic show by Matt and Pete Wood that begins at 1 p.m. and includes card tricks and mind-reading. In addition, artists will paint faces, necks, arms, legs and hands with all sorts of whimsical designs.
Sneaks the Cat, the library's summer reading club mascot, will also be on hand to help children with various games and craft activities.
"Hereford library is a wonderful community library with a warm, comfortable feeling," said Jim Fish, director of Baltimore County Public Libraries. "Hereford has a strong group of library users and its Friends group is very strong, too."
And while the Friends of the Hereford Library group, led by president Laura Pawlak, is busy planning the 25th anniversary events, it is also trying to convince county officials to invest in a larger and permanent facility, considering that the Hereford branch is the only one of the county's 18 branches in rented space. It takes up the entire first floor of the two-story Hereford Center on York Road in Hereford.
"We are in ongoing negotiations with the library building's owners, the Yarema family, to sell us the entire building," said Todd Huff, 3rd District County Councilman. "It was one of my top three goals and I'm diligently working to get this thing accomplished."
The idea for a North County library began in 1983 when Hereford High School's Parent Teacher Student Association was concerned the school library was inadequate. At the time, the two nearest libraries were Cockeysville and Jacksonville Mini Library.
Local residents Bill Hughes and Rose Dykes took on the project of trying to ensure money for a library was included in the county budget.
In 1984, then County Executive Donald Hutchinson wrote to Hughes "I don't see the possibility of that kind of County investment very soon, if at all."
When Dennis Rasmussen became County Executive in 1986, Hughes and Dykes renewed their efforts. Some 200 people attended a meeting with the Board of Library Trustees and Hughes presented the Trustees with a petition signed by 2,800 people asking for a local library. There was talk of building a library on Hereford High School's campus, but anticipated renovations at the school nixed that possibility.
In January 1987, the Library Trustees included $250,000 in its budget for a future library. The main question was whether to rent space so a library could open fairly soon, or wait until money was available to build a permanent facility.
Three months later, 500 people showed up at Hereford High School's auditorium to hear Rasmussen announce that the need for a library was immediate. He approved funds to rent space, hire staff and equip a library.
The county then signed a five-year lease on 5,000 square-feet in a building being constructed by Carl Yarema.
The grand opening of Hereford Library took place on Oct. 3, 1988. Rasmussen and then County Councilman Dutch Ruppersberger helped cut the ribbon, along with Hughes and Dykes.
"It was a great day," Hughes said recently. "We worked so hard to get a library up here and it's wonderful to see it being used by so many people. Just walking in to the library makes me feel good."
In fiscal year 2013, Hereford circulated 276,081 items and 104,788 people walked through the branch's doors.
The library space expanded from 5,000 to 7,500-square feet in 2002. And as of Sept. 8, Hereford Library expanded its hours by opening from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
The new library manager, Samantha O'Heren, worked at Hereford part-time from 1999-2009.
"I have many, many fond memories of when I was here, so I am very excited to come back," O'Heren said. "This is such a great community library."