As a Waynesboro Public Library patron for more than seventy years, I feel an enormous debt to four library directors—one of whom I never knew. Nonetheless, their character, kindness, purposefulness, and sense of obligation resulted in each of them having a direct and beneficial impact on my life.
AN EARLY LIBRARIAN—NOT CERTAIN WHO SHE WAS
When the library opened in 1915, my mother, Courtney Pelter, was a young girl of nine who lived directly across the street at the corner of Walnut Avenue and Eleventh Street. My grandmother recalled that every afternoon my mother would visit the shining new library and come home with an armload of books the librarian had encouraged her to take home, read, and return the following day.
That librarian—she may have been Mary Stevens, Maggie Scanlon, or our family friend Mrs. Lyda Wood—instilled a love of reading and a quest for knowledge in my mother that was passed on vicariously to me. My mother died at 54, but not before she had made me a lifetime “friend” of the library.
I often think about that precocious young girl with the armload of books and the kindly librarian who encouraged her.
MRS. DIXIE ROGERS
Mrs. Dixie Rogers was the second library director who impacted my life.
As a little boy, I was regularly exposed to the then-crowded but ever-fascinating Walnut Avenue library building. It was a rich experience that continued through my years as a grade student at nearby Bethany Lutheran School and later as a Fishburne Military School cadet just across the street from the library.
In those days Mrs. Rogers often managed the entire building single-handedly or at best with only one part-time assistant. She was strict and firm in the discipline she imposed, but she was ever willing to open the vast resources of her own considerable culture and knowledge to the inquisitive mind of a young would-be scholar.
When she saw the opportunity to enlighten a young patron, she was unfailingly helpful and even willing to bend her own rules. She allowed little-used reference books to be checked out for extended periods of time if she thought they would be read and absorbed in the interim.
She opened many doors of knowledge for me and instilled a habit in my life of regular library browsing. A few years later I found that thanks to her, the habit was so ingrained in me that I spent many hours after class roaming on my own through the cavernous stacks and endless riches of Alderman Library at the University of Virginia.
Mrs. Rogers was largely responsible for these exciting adventures.
MS. DOROTHY ANNE REINBOLD
By 1965, after active duty in the US Army, I returned to Waynesboro as a f l e d g I n g lawyer just as the city had employed a young librarian from Shillington, Pennsylvania.
Her name was Dorothy Anne Reinbold, and her first task was to help plan a new, state-of-the-art library facility to serve the growing needs of a flourishing municipality. For 37 years, Waynesboro Public Library became her wondrous and ever-expanding creation, reflecting her remarkable personality in every aspect of its dynamic operation.
She became one of my friends of a lifetime and was surely one of the most remarkable people I ever knew. She was indefatigable—a collector, archivist, public relations expert, child psychologist, politician, and educator.
She impacted state library policy, built our circulation and collection to record levels, counseled authors and researchers, wrote and edited books of her own on many phases of local history, and for years regularly manned the front desk on Friday nights to maintain an awareness of the demands of the general public. The library’s local history collection that she built and nurtured through the decades literally formed the initial collection of the Waynesboro Heritage Museum.
She helped me, as she helped others, in absolutely countless ways. When she retired in 2002, Waynesboro’s library patrons enjoyed a nationally-recognized institution.
MR. ZAHIR MAMOUD
Today’s library director is likewise one of a kind. Mr. Zahir Mahmoud has effectively faced twenty-first century challenges quite different from those encountered by his predecessors, and he has faced them adroitly.
Already skilled and experienced when he succeeded Miss Reinbold twelve years ago, Zahir Mahmoud has applied acuity and professionalism to meeting rapidly advancing technological needs. At the same time he has demonstrated an awareness of changing public needs in library services.
He has created a user-friendly environment that welcomes patrons with a variety of needs and interests. His penchant for sound administration and creative programming has fostered an atmosphere of efficient service and expanded resources in this building.
When the proliferation of printed materials began to overburden the shelf space available, Zahir quickly embraced more efficient on-line alternatives. In areas where nothing could replace the printed word, he saw to the expansion of reading opportunities for children, complementing them with hands-on games and audio-visual experience. Likewise, the library’s nationally-acclaimed genealogical research facilities became the envy of communities across the Shenandoah Valley.
Zahir has never forgotten that public support is paramount to fostering a municipal library’s growth and success. In an era of budget constraints, he was positive and forthright in leading the campaign for voter approval of a million-dollar bond issue for library expansion that garnered more votes than a slate of other worthy civic improvements.
I saw firsthand how his trusted judgment, firm salesmanship, and unflagging campaigning helped accomplish what many deemed an impossible victory. Such is the man who leads our library today.
Now I am well aware that the Waynesboro Public Library is the creation of hundreds and hundreds of loyal staff members, citizen volunteers, organized friends, and general supporters who have served it since it began.
Notwithstanding this indispensable cumulative effort, I believe it can be argued persuasively that the impact of its successive library directors should not be minimized when the century-long saga of this remarkable facility is told.
– Joseph B. Yount III