Q&A: County Public Library's Dorothy Stoltz talks Carroll One Book initiative

Dorothy Stoltz is the Director for Community Engagement for Carroll County Public Library.
Dorothy Stoltz is the Director for Community Engagement for Carroll County Public Library. (Courtesy Photo)

The Carroll One Book initiative’s second year is in full swing, with many Carroll County Public Library activities on the horizon — including a National History Day Competition Event on March 2.

The Times recently caught up with Dorothy Stoltz, the library’s director for community engagement, about what Carroll One Book is all about and what people can expect if they get involved.


Q: How are you involved in Carroll One Book and how did the initiative get started?

A: I help with general planning for Carroll One Book and with coordinating library-sponsored events. In the early 2000s, I was part of a team at Carroll County Public Library which established what we refer to as “a community book initiative” and called it: On the Same Page. For a few years, we featured books such as the modern classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, and Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel, “The Killer Angels,” by Michael Shaara. We offered discussion activities, music programs, film screenings, and guest speakers.

Beginning in 2008 Maryland Humanities established the wonderful One Maryland One Book as a statewide program. Locally, we opted to switch from On the Same Page to One Maryland One Book. “Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Evidence” by Tim Junkin was last year’s selection featuring a Maryland story with national significance.

In 2017, Carroll County Public Schools suggested that in addition to One Maryland One Book, the Learning Advantage Partnership, a collaboration between the schools and the library, offer a county-wide initiative to encourage reading and discussion with the overarching purpose to bring out the best in oneself and others. This became the basis for Carroll One Book.

Q: Is there one book chosen yearly? Who decides which book to read and how do they come to that decision?

A: Yes, we are in our second year of the initiative featuring one book per school year. The book title is selected by a school-library planning group that strives to choose a book that offers the opportunity to discover the best within ourself and others. Members suggest and review titles that fit the selection criteria: Is the book compelling? Does it encourage discussion that will explore and promote helpful concepts, such as dignity, unity, courage, and optimism? Is it well written?

It was part of a next step for the Carroll One Book project: the first African American Heritage Tour, which took more than 50 people in two buses across the county to visit the many important sites in the county’s deep African American heritage

The first Carroll One Book title was “In Carrie’s Footprints: The Long Walk of Warren Dorsey,” by Jack McBride White for school year 2017-2018. Warren Dorsey, the grandson of a slave, grew up in a poor family in Sykesville. Dorsey, now 97 years old, triumphed over poverty, sickness, war, and discrimination and moved beyond an impoverished childhood. He enjoyed three successful careers, first as a scientist, and then eventually as a teacher and a school principal. “In Carrie’s Footprints” is a story of overcoming adversity and demonstrates that elements such as respect and goodwill — though they may be intangible — are not frivolous, imponderable or illusory.

Q: Why is it important for community members to read the same book and to talk about it?

A: A countywide book initiative can be important as a way to offer an opportunity to celebrate the goodness of a community. Residents can come together to ponder life’s big ideas, have a conversation, and bring out the best skills, talents, and potential of each other. One of the goals is to think through those big ideas. A big idea is what Plato referred to as an idea or pattern of thought stemming from the universal principle. Big ideas are blueprints for concepts that can help improve life. They embody the desire to make things better. Big ideas are designs of thinking for optimism (Helen Keller), freedom (Thomas Jefferson), charity for all (Abraham Lincoln), and energy (Nikola Tesla).

Let’s take goodwill as an example that is expressed in great literature and poetry. From Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo” to Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” this universal truth affects people in a positive manner. Goodwill is a big (abstract) idea that fuels tolerance and forgiveness. Tolerance and forgiveness, in turn, activates and animates goodwill. Juliet forgives Romeo after he kills her cousin, Tybalt. When she denies a marriage proposal to Paris, Juliet’s father uses forgiveness to dissolve his anger toward her. Tolerance helps to bind the Montague and Capulet families. Goodwill can be described as the life-force that unites humanity.

Celebrating the joy of lifelong learning is contagious. Many individuals and organizations, besides the schools and the library, have participated in this effort and are instrumental to its success, including, the Carroll Chapter of the NAACP, Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, Carroll Community College, and McDaniel College.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the book that has been selected and what Carroll County One Book activities have already taken place for it.

A: This year’s Carroll One Book title is “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, published in 2015. It is written as a passionate, often poetic letter to the author's teenage son about the challenges he faced growing up in Baltimore as an African-American and using the best within to make one’s way in the world. It gives us the opportunity to discuss the inspiration behind his forceful message to his son – of which courage is one of several big ideas. Courage means the strength to persevere. It means getting to the heart of connecting with the best in life – under any circumstance. We can gain insights into how to apply courage to learn new ways to be helpful and find creative and often unexpected solutions, and – in the long-run – strengthen one’s ability to be successful.

Examples of activities thus far:

  • Carroll County student field trip to Howard University, the alma mater of the author.
  • Faculty discussions at Carroll County Public Schools, Carroll Community College, and McDaniel College.
  • Discussion activity at Carroll County Public Library, North Carroll Branch.

Q: What can attendees expect at the March 2 National History Day Competition Event?

A: Carroll One Book will have a display table at the National History Day event at Winters Mill High School on March 2. We’ll promote the initiative and upcoming events and will have books for lending.

Q: Are there any other upcoming events that should be highlighted?

A: Carroll One Book Discussion to Promote Unity at the Finksburg Branch, Monday, March 11 at 7 p.m. and at the Eldersburg Branch, Monday, April 8 at 7 p.m. Join us for a conversation as we use “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates as a springboard to discuss the idea of unity and how to put it into action each day. For ages 16 and up. Sponsored by the Learning Advantage Partnership, a collaboration between Carroll County Public Schools & Carroll County Public Library. Music by Eric Byrd begins at 6:30 PM and is sponsored by a Choose Civility Grant.


Carroll One Book is a communitywide initiative to encourage reading and discussion to promote respect, goodwill, and dignity.