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Fairlawn-Bath Branch Library marks 50 years

5/22/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

When the library re-opened after its latest expansion in 2004, it was renamed Fairlawn-Bath Branch Library in keeping with the new focus on naming libraries for the community they serve.
Photo: Kathleen Collins
The Bath Library officially opened June 8, 1964, in a renovated house at 3867 Ira Road.
Photo courtesy of Fairlawn-Bath Branch Library
The Bath Library relocated to its current Smith Road location in 1971 as the McDowell Branch Library. Shown is the library in 1972.
Photo courtesy of Fairlawn-Bath Branch Library
FAIRLAWN — On June 7, the Fairlawn-Bath Branch Library will be honored during a 50th anniversary celebration.

Theresa Munka, the branch’s teen librarian, said the Fairlawn-Bath Branch Library has played an important role in the community during its history.

“We serve a diverse and vibrant population, which not only includes the people who live in the area, but those who work here or visit from outside the county. The building is full of sunlight and book-loving, curious people,” she said. “Library use has continued to grow with the community. Businesses including Summit Mall have brought more people into the area and our traffic has increased.”

According to Fairlawn-Bath Branch Manager Jane Scott, the Fairlawn-Bath Branch is the Akron-Summit County Public Library system’s busiest, with 21,570 borrowers, 75,234 books and more than 400,000 items in circulation in 2013.

Library’s history

Plans to create a library in Bath began in the late 1950s, Munka said.

“The Bath community had outgrown bookmobile service provided by the Akron Public Library, and the Bath Volunteers for Service dedicated themselves to establishing a local library,” she said. “They formed a library committee, headed by Mrs. [Diane] Schlemmer, and hoped to convince the Akron Library to build a branch in Bath. When money was not available for the expansion, the library committee hosted fundraisers, gathered book donations and enlisted hundreds of volunteers to establish a community library.”

The Bath Library officially opened June 8, 1964, in a renovated house at 3867 Ira Road.

“That facility had a $1,800 budget with no tax money and 50 volunteer librarians,” Scott noted. “Donations from the community included books, plants, homemade curtains and paint.”

The Bath Library “clearly demonstrated the need and commitment for local library service,” Munka said.

“In 1966, Bath Volunteers for Service and the Akron Public Library reached an agreement to temporarily share operating costs and the Akron Public Library would build a new branch,” she noted. “The Smith Road location opened in 1971 and was replaced by the current expanded building [at 3101 Smith Road], which opened in 2004.”

During the Fairlawn-Bath Branch Library’s history, an evolving process of expansion led the library to go through a few names — from the Bath Library to the McDowell Branch — before landing on its current moniker.

“The original library was founded in Bath by the community of Bath. When the branch library opened on Smith Road, it was named after longtime library board member Blake McDowell,” Munka explained. “When the library re-opened after the latest expansion, it was renamed Fairlawn-Bath in keeping with the new focus on naming libraries for the community they served. Our community room is now named after Mr. McDowell.”

Celebrating 50 years

During the June 7 anniversary celebration, which will take place from 1 to 3 p.m., attendees will have a chance to honor the library’s past while enjoying a few special events.

“We will have our PAWS for Reading dogs here at 1 p.m. who love to have children read to them,” Munka said. “We will also have a special storywalk featuring the library’s history, guest speakers, old friends and a special visit from Paws, the new library mascot. Of course, we will be serving cupcakes.”

Honoring the 50th anniversary is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the library’s history while also highlighting the library’s evolving present and future, Munka said.

“With funds provided by the Friends of Fairlawn-Bath Branch, we have just redecorated the Teen Area,” she said. “Large library tables have been replaced with café tables and stools and beanbag chairs. We have also added a charging station. This spring, we are transforming the landscape with potted herbs and vegetables, a fairy garden and bird-feeders.”

Munka said the library is constantly looking for ways to improve to keep the library a vital part of the Fairlawn-Bath area for another 50 years and beyond.

“This is a wonderful community, and we are happy to be part of it,” she said. “We would love for people to visit not just on our anniversary, but throughout the year. And look for us when you are out and about this year. The library participates in Bath Community Day, Copley Heritage Day and several other community events.”

For additional information about the Fairlawn-Bath Branch Library, call 330-666-4888 or go to fairlawnbathbranch.akronlibrary.org/.

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