Lights danced above the Miller branch of the Howard County Library System on Saturday night as folks dressed to the nines dashed through the parking lot in the cold night air to attend Evening in the Stacks. Shaking off coats in the spacious library foyer, they were greeted by a towering 8-foot-tall gentleman, who was ready for photographs.
"They didn't expect me, I think," chuckled Tim Marrone, a professional stilt walker with Entertainment Exchange, as he smiled and posed with people.
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, the Howard County Library System went all out for its annual fundraiser, Evening in the Stacks. With the theme "Black Ties, White Diamonds," the event transformed the Miller branch — which closed early on Saturday to prepare — into an elegant party venue featuring several stations of food, open bars, glowing candelabrum and a dance floor.
"It is just so beautiful," said Blondelle Hunter, who was taking everything in from her seat on the first floor. "The decor is just dazzlingly."
Hunter was accompanied by Vivian Bailey, a former head of Friends of the Library, a group that supports the library system.
"This affair is always extra nice," said Bailey, 97. "It's a fun affair."
On the second floor of the library, David and Betsy Lew, of Ellicott City, were one of the first couples to take to the dance floor.
"Someone's got to start," said Betsy Lew, after several turns around the floor.
"We love the library and we're supporters," Lew said. "It's a great cause and a lot of fun."
More than 600 people were expected to attend the 18th annual event, a record number for the fundraiser, according to Victoria Goodman, publicist specialist for Howard County Library System. On Monday, it was determined that the event raised $101,000 for the library, $10,000 more than last year, Goodman said.
"The appeal of getting together in the library itself is very big," Goodman said. "We have wonderful supporters who come back year after year."
Each year, the event features a national author. This year, the speaker was J. Courtney Sullivan, whose latest book, "The Engagements," features a diamond ring on the cover.
"I had never heard of her before," admitted Liz Lancaster, as she held an autographed copy of the book. "It sounded like something I would enjoy reading."
Retired from the library, Lancaster has attended several Evening in the Stacks events and has several books at home to prove it.
"It's one of those things that makes it really special," Lancaster said, of the author talks. "It's a great event."
A white flower pinned to her outfit marked Josette Dubois as one of 50 volunteers who helped the night of the event. The Sunday supervisor at the Central Branch, Dubois was back for her fourth year as a volunteer.
"It's fun to see everyone in the stacks," said Dubois, as she gestured to tables and attendees gathered all around the library's books.
Carolyn David, who works at the Savage branch, decided not to volunteer this year, but rather attend.
"Since it was the 75th, I wanted to come and enjoy everything," David said.
"The people ... just everyone is open. It makes you feel welcome," said Yvette Chang, of Laurel, who was with David in the photo booth. "It's really nice. Elegant."
"It's spectacular," said Joe Murray, who has attended the event the last 10 years. "It is truly the number one public library system in America. They're a cut above and the community involvement is also spectacular."