For much of my life, I have had a close association with libraries and with books. Ever since I worked at the McKeldin Library periodicals desk—during my time as an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park—I have had an evolving relationship with libraries. Most recently, I have been actively engaged as a volunteer in a variety of ways for the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL).
Never in all of my time strolling through the stacks of our local Perry Hall branch did I think that, one day, I would see my name on the spine of a book housed on those very shelves. As it happens, I recently had the unique experience to co-author a local history book with a good friend of mine. This volume, which hit the streets as of President’s Day 2013, chronicles the story of our Perry Hall Mansion.
This book consists of over 200 images, personal accounts of surviving residents, and original source documents to vividly tell the story of Perry Hall Mansion. During its nearly 250-year history, the place of the mansion within the surrounding community has consistently evolved—from its early years as the country estate of a colonial merchant family, to times where local farm families called it home, and culminating with its later years at the center of suburban growth in northeastern Baltimore County.
Having now gone through the process of writing and editing this book, I can definitely tell you that it required a good bit of time and a lot of hard work. My co-author Sean Kief and I spent a lot of time in identifying the best images to include in this book. Both of us wanted to ultimately have a volume that was at once informative and yet accessible to readers of varied interests.
Of equal importance was our desire to make sure that the stories of the Perry Hall families who resided in the mansion would be more broadly available and preserved for future generations to enjoy. In this regard, my co-author and I were truly blessed to have access to individuals who had first-hand knowledge of the lives of those who resided in this historic home. Their stories and knowledge helped to ensure that our history of Perry Hall Mansion was an accurate and rich account of some important aspects of our community's past.
As it happens, both my co-author and I have strong connections to public libraries. Sean himself worked part-time during high school at BCPL’s Loch Raven branch, and his mother has worked for many years in the administrative offices for the system. I truly believe that the strong links that he and I both shared with our local Baltimore County libraries were also invaluable in offering a perspective on what would actually make a book readable and even enjoyable for public library customers.
Years of visiting, working, or even volunteering at public libraries can indeed offer the experience and perspective required to create the sort of books that might have appeal for the reading public. If nothing else, it certainly doesn’t hurt to find a topic that appeals to your local community, write a compelling narrative, and then perhaps even help your library to advance its mission of giving readers what they want.