Romance in the pages and online

Romance in the pages and online: Anne Arundel County Public Library celebrates 100 years of evolution from book repository to broad public resource

Capital Gazette

Sanchez, Olivia

Frances Smith has only lived five of her 77 years without knowing William Smith Jr. — the first five.

The pair met as kindergarteners, and for the next seven decades, they were inseparable — eventually marrying in 1965 and raising two children. Their relationship was jolted three years ago, when William Smith Jr. suffered two strokes, rendering him bedridden and voiceless and requiring that he move to an assisted living facility in St. Mary’s County.

She began visiting Smith five days a week, sitting, reading or singing for hours with many nights spent at a nearby Navy Lodge. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, stopping her visits for seven months.

As each month passed, she worried he would forget her without hearing her voice. Or worse, he could feel like he’d been “dropped off and suspended in another neverland.”

“It was like I lost him because I had no way of talking or communicating or even knowing if he knew I was there to support him,” said Frances Smith, who lives in Annapolis. “It was like I lost a huge part of me.”

By early October, Smith had enough. She marched into the Eastport-Annapolis Neck Library with her grandson’s library card and a mission: Find some way virtually to visit her “Smitty,” his nickname. At the library, Smith met helpful staff who helped her create a Zoom account, taught her how to use it and scheduled her weekly appointments on Fridays at 11:30 a.m., when William’s nursing staff could help him connect with his wife.

The library rose to the occasion, creating a “lifeline,” Smith said.

Anne Arundel County Public Library is celebrating a century of serving Anne Arundel County residents like Smith. The official 100-year date was Friday. Since 1921, it’s been a steadfast resource for residents, serving as a quiet study, a place to connect with neighbors, a kaleidoscope into other worlds when the real one is too stressful. When the pandemic took hold, the staff quickly made over their regular job descriptions.