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Library Journey Stories exhibit a big success

The Harford County Public Library's Journey Stories exhibit, a partnership with the Smithsonian and county's community services department, was a success, library representatives say.

It was the first time the library system had teamed up with community services and, after nearly two months at different branches and community centers, the exhibit drew in more than 13,000 visitors.

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"It went wonderfully," Bethany Hacker, a library community relations specialist, said. "We were very pleased."

The exhibit spanned several library branches and a few county community centers, focused on how Americans immigrated to the country and migrated across the nation and the evolution of transportation.

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The main exhibit, with materials lent from the Smithsonian, was at the Abingdon branch, and other smaller exhibits took the Journey Stories theme and related it to Harford County.

The Journey Stories exhibit was the best attended, Hacker said. An exhibit on the Underground Railroad, at the Bel Air branch, brought in just over 2,000 visitors and the juried art show with photography of cars at the Jarrettsville branch had roughly 1,400 visitors.

Hacker explained visitation numbers for the other exhibits are hard to judge because it would be difficult to differentiate which people were there to visit the library and who were there to see the exhibit.

Hacker added that most of the comments the library system received were positive.

"Most of the comments are that it was much more than they [the public] had originally thought it was going to be," she said. "Of course they enjoyed it and were glad it was brought to the county and the county needed more things like this."

Another frequent comment was that the exhibition was "very educational."

To complement the exhibits, the libraries hosted many events and speakers.

About 3,000 people attended the different programs, Hacker said.

"Over 20,000 people connected to Journey Stories in some way," she added.

The county's community service director felt the same.

"We thought it was a huge success," Beth Hendrix said. "We were so thrilled with the turnout, especially with the speakers and programs."

She said a few events were standing room only.

Library director Mary Hastler called Journey Stories a "really special project for us."

"Our goal was to bring something on a large scale people could get involved in no matter what age they were or what their interests were," Hastler said.

She also said the car photography show was "a bit hit" and the community got involved by posting photos of the first cars they owned.

Through Journey Stories, the library system has been able to form new partnerships.

"The [library] foundation has really tapped into a whole new group of sponsors," Hacker said. "Keene Dodge is one of those."

Keene was the main sponsor of the car photography show and had never teamed up with the library for anything like that before.

Now, Keene will sponsor the fall gala and the art show will become a yearly event, which the company will sponsor.

The library, Hastler said, was able to "tap into a new group of people who never thought they would get involved in the library in some way."

Looking to the future, the library has applied, through the National Endowment for the Humanities, to be the host of a touring exhibition on the Civil War. If the application is accepted, it would hopefully be up for the public in the spring.

If not, the libraries will most likely do another program in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

In the fall, community services and the library will be teaming up once again for the One Maryland, One Book program.

Each year, the state picks one book for groups to read and discuss — a statewide book club of sorts.

This year, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Golloway was chosen, and an event with the author will be hosted at the Veronica "Roni" Chenowith Activity Center in Fallston.

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