Jeff Korman began working at the Baltimore-based Enoch Pratt Free Library in 1980 and within five years knew he had found his home in the library world, as he puts it.
At the Pratt system's Central Library, he works at the State Library Resource Center, which assists in library research and programs throughout the state.
Monday evening, Jeff Korman will be speaking about Maryland during World War II at the Carroll County Public Library's Mount Airy Branch.
He said there is so much to learn about the state that he seeks to spread the knowledge to everyone he can.
The Times caught up with Korman and asked him about the program and what makes the Baltimore-based library so special.
Q: Monday you'll be giving a presentation about Maryland during World War II. How did you coordinate to come to Mount Airy?
A: I have been giving presentations on Maryland-related topics for many years as a way to get folks interested in some of the lesser-known persons and events. Since the SLRC constituent libraries across the state are charged with hosting public programs, it creates a perfect opportunity to present Maryland in a fun way.
Carroll County Public Library has been one of the state's most proactive library systems in terms of programming, and I've been out there so many times it feels like home. Mount Airy has asked me to speak as part of the county's "Celebrate America" series.
Q: What began your interest in life in the 1940s?
A: Truth is, I developed the presentation when a librarian asked if I could do a World War II-related topic for a program. Being a boomer, I was not around at the time. My father was in the Army and served in Europe; I knew he had married my mom three weeks before he left for basic training in 1942. That was a common practice in those days - she became his beneficiary. Hollywood has made sure everyone knows about the military aspects of the war, but what was life like for my mom during those years? And what was going on locally that related to the war effort? I was interested in day-to-day life and also the contribution of locals that must have been very different from life during the Great Depression - which was just ending.
Q: How was Maryland different during World War II from during other eras of the mid-20th century?
A: In Baltimore, the population swelled to what was almost the all-time high. People came here to work in war-related industries like aircraft and shipbuilding. That must have created enormous stress on the resources necessary for daily life. We complain about the cost of gasoline today, but what if you could not get gas at any price? The same was true for food and for housing. One benefit of looking at life in the 40s is that it gives us an opportunity to be thankful for all we have today.
Q: Why do you think people still enjoy learning about it today?
A: There are so many people out there, not just academics, that have a deep appreciation and curiosity about history. Understanding what came before helps us realize how the past shapes our lives today. People I've encountered who are interested want to know everything about a topic, and WWII is not different. It was the last "popular" (if you will) war. We want to understand people's reaction and motivation. I'd recommend a recent book, "Home Front Baltimore: An Album of Stories from World War II" by Gilbert Sandler, for anyone who wants some first-person accounts of war life in this area.
Q: The Pratt Library has an immense amount of history itself. How was the library different in the 1940s from today?
A: I could speak for days about the library's history. The 40s was a very interesting period. The new Central Library was only a few years old (the original Central Library was opened in 1886), and Dr. Joseph Wheeler was in command. His foresight and direction put Pratt in the center of municipal life and learning. The collections we hold were greatly expanding. Librarians at the time were real scholars - they were experts in their field. We trained our own librarians, and it was not easy to be accepted to the Pratt training class. Part of the library's mission is to be sure the public has the information it needs to function in a free society. Pratt's programs and services in the 1940s helped people educate themselves about current events and how to cope with life at home during the war and after the war had ended. Pratt was involved in the war effort too - we had a program called "Read to Understand: Education for Citizenship and Unity in Wartime" that promoted reading about world events. And, our well-known display windows on Cathedral Street contained an ever-changing series of book exhibits relevant to the times.
Of course, the technology was vastly different. In the 1940s we communicated via the printed word and the spoken word. Huge changes in technology and how we receive information have shaped much of the services libraries provide today.
Q: Libraries like the Pratt Library are a little farther than the neighborhood libraries in the county. What makes the Baltimore library worth visiting the next time Carroll residents are in the area?
A: As I mentioned, Pratt Central is the State Library Resource Center. We have a million and a half volumes and many treasures people may not associate with a library. Our collection is comprehensive, as it serves to back up other libraries in the state. We have wonderful special collections that house many primary resources beyond the book. And, we've digitized many of those collections so that we can share our material with everyone. Take a look at a few of these and you'll see what I mean.
I haven't mentioned the terrific speakers we have here. New and established authors, media personalities - James Carville and Mary Matalin will be here in January - artists, etc. speak at our "Writers Live!" series, and almost all programs are free. Our children's department is well known and there is a special section for teens too, so programs for those age groups are plentiful too.
The technology is cutting edge: Wi-Fi, e-books and readers - you can borrow a laptop to work in the building or take a computer class if you're a beginner. The best way to keep up is to download our mobile app, Pratt to Go.
The library is located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, so there's plenty to see in the area: The original Basilica is right across the street, and we're in easy walking distance of the Walters Museum, the Peabody Institute, Center Stage, the Washington Monument, Lexington Market and the Maryland Historical Society.