• Howard County Library System (HCLS) began operating in a portable school building in Ellicott City.


  • Lenna Baker Burgess was appointed to lead HCLS.


  • The Education Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland established HCLS as an educational institution eligible to receive State and County funds for its operating budget.


  • A flash flood destroyed 5,175 books. Within two months, HCLS reopened.


  • For the convenience of customers living farthest from the library, HCLS purchased a bookmobile.


  • HCLS moved to rented quarters on the corner of Route 144 & St. John’s Lane.


  • HCLS opened its first permanent building on Frederick Road.


  • Marvin Thomas was hired as HCLS’ first Director.
  • HCLS:
    • Developed a card catalog and began reference services.
    • Extended its hours of operation to six days and four evenings per week.
    • Installed air conditioning.


  • To expand collections and classes beyond its Frederick Road location and bookmobile, HCLS rented space to open a small branch in the Carroll Baldwin Memorial Hall in Savage.
  • HCLS began purchasing paperbacks, expanded its hardback collection, and developed a pamphlet collection.
  • HCLS added photocopiers for public use at its two branches.


  • The opening of the new Wilde Lake Branch brought HCLS to three locations and one bookmobile.


  • HCLS initiated a regular line-up of classes for students of all ages at each of its locations.
  • HCLS opened two additional branches: one at Church Road, and the second on Main Street in Ellicott City.


  • Possibilities came under consideration for a new HCLS branch that would be centrally located in Columbia.


  • HCLS established a microfilm collection.
  • HCLS’ Frederick Road Branch underwent a renovation, providing space to establish a phonograph record collection.


  • HCLS purchased a minimobile to deliver books and materials to homebound customers.
  • Sunday hours from September to May were implemented at the HCLS Frederick Road Branch.
  • HCLS established an audiocassette collection.


  • Director Marvin Thomas formed the Central Library United Effort citizen committee to facilitate the Central Branch’s planning process.


  • HCLS opened the Long Reach Branch in a rented storefront in the Long Reach Village Center, establishing TTY service at that location.


  • Howard Research and Development donated 3.5 acres of land to build a new HCLS Central Branch.
  • A balcony was added at HCLS’ Frederick Road Branch to house an expanded fiction collection.


  • The revolutionary process of automating and computerizing HCLS commenced.


  • HCLS’ administrative and support staff moved to the Central Branch.


  • HCLS’ Central Branch opened to the public. Features included an audiovisual area, a large meeting room, and an automated system to improve the efficiency of loaning books and materials.
  • HCLS opened its Lisbon Community Branch on Frederick Road.
  • Director Marvin Thomas created citizen groups to plan strategically for the future.


  • Age- and developmentally-appropriate educational toys for infants and toddlers were added to the HCLS collection.


  • HCLS launched personal computers for public use.
  • HCLS opened its Elkridge Community Branch in a rented storefront along Route 1.


  • HCLS’ Lisbon Community Branch moved to the Lisbon Center.
  • HCLS established videocassette collections at each of its locations.


  • HCLS renovated the Frederick Road Branch, renaming it the Charles E. Miller Branch, and closed its Church Road Community Branch.


  • HCLS established a systemwide compact disc collection.


  • HCLS introduced INFO-LAN, a stand-alone, multi-station CD-ROM network for public use.
  • Online customer access catalogs were made available to the public.
  • The first specialized online research tools (DIALOG and LOGIN) were introduced, enhancing HCLS’ delivery of research assistance.
  • A specialized Health Education Collection was established.
  • HCLS implemented Project Literacy, its adult basic education initiative, providing one-on-one tutoring and group instruction for adults.
  • Easy Access projects began providing materials accessible to and services for customers with various vision and hearing impairments and other disabilities.


  • HCLS launched remote dial-in access to its online catalog.


  • HCLS opened a new Savage Branch, which replaced both the Savage Community Branch and the bookmobile.
  • After hours remote access to HCLS’ INFO-LAN was made available to customers.


  • HCLS opened a new Elkridge Branch, simultaneously closing the Elkridge Community Branch.


  • HCLS opened its East Columbia Branch.
  • Approximately one half of HCLS’ administrative and support staff relocated from the Central to the East Columbia Branch.
  • HCLS established a connection to the Internet.


  • HCLS partnered with The Mall in Columbia to place DataDepot, a computer research station in the Mall.
  • Director Marvin Thomas retired after 33 years.
  • Norma Hill became the new Director.
  • HCLS unveiled a new logo, along with a new tagline “Great Expectations.”
  • HCLS premiered Great Expectations, a quarterly publication featuring HCLS resources, classes, news, and events.
  • The Library of Congress designated HCLS as home to the Maryland Center for the Book.
  • More than 8,900 children and teens participated in the Summer Reading Program.


  • HCLS celebrated the tenth anniversary of HCLS Project Literacy.
  • Pulitzer Prize winner Maxine Kumin headlined a Notable Author Event at the East Columbia Branch.
  • A grant from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control Prevention funded multimedia computers offering homework assistance for teens.


  • “Mother Goose Asks Why,” a series of literature/science children’s classes sponsored by the National Science Foundation, was introduced.
  • HCLS launched its first web site (www.howa.lib.md.us).
  • HCLS’ first Evening in the Stacks gala was hosted at the East Columbia Branch, with the theme A Literary Party with Pizzazz and The Washington Post as Title Sponsor.
  • Groundbreaking for the HCLS Glenwood Branch took place.
  • HCLS partnered with Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine to develop a collection of print and online research materials for the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource and Imaging Center.


  • A portable network with six notebook computers was introduced to enhance HCLS’ line-up of web and PC classes.
  • HCLS’ curriculum marketed to non-English speakers.
  • The Maryland Center for the Book developed Write From Maryland, a directory of authors, for the benefit of the entire state.
  • National Book Award winner Alice McDermott was the keynote speaker at Supper at Six, HCLS’ annual author event sponsored by the Friends of Howard County Library.
  • HCLS held Evening in the Stacks: Worth Remembering.
  • A five-year Strategic Plan was introduced.


  • Howard County General Hospital bestowed a major grant to expand classes for children.
  • HCLS was renewed for second term as the home of Maryland Center for the Book.
  • Supper at Six featured acclaimed novelist Gail Godwin.
  • The HCLS Central Branch closed for renovation.
  • The HCLS Lisbon Community Branch closed.
  • HCLS held Evening in the Stacks: “I Love Theater.”
  • Opened the HCLS Glenwood Branch, naming the branch’s meeting room the Pindell Room to honor western Howard County residents Bill and Betty Pindell.


  • HCLS was renewed for a final term (through 2005) as the home of Maryland Center for the Book.
  • DVDs were added to HCLS’ collection.
  • HCLS Director Norma Hill retired after 21 years with HCLS.
  • HCLS President & CEO Valerie J. Gross joined the HCLS team to lead the system that had grown to six branches.
  • Supper at Six’s keynote speaker featured nationally known author Sue Miller.
  • HCLS held Evening in the Stacks: A Night to Remember in Paris at the Glenwood Branch.
  • The HCLS Central Branch reopened after a 17-month, $5.37 million renovation.


  • An American Sign Language video collection was added to HCLS’ collection of materials.
  • Award-winning author Elizabeth Berg delivered the keynote address at Supper at Six.
  • HCLS held Evening in the Stacks: Winter Wonderland.
  • HCLS launched A+ Partners in Education, a comprehensive partnership between HCLS and Howard County Public School System (HCPSS).


  • HCLS hosted Newberry Medal author Linda Sue Park as part of its Outstanding Children’s Author Series.
  • In partnership with Fidos for Freedom, Friends of Howard County Library, and HCPSS, HCLS introduced DEAR (Dogs Educating and Assisting Readers), an initiative where third grade students improve their skills by reading to nonjudgmental, loving therapy dogs.
  • HCLS celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Elkridge Branch.
  • HCLS held Evening in the Stacks: Mardi Gras.
  • Hours at the HCLS Elkridge and Savage branches were expanded to include Sundays during the school year.


  • HCLS launched Newcomers Book Discussion, a class developed for high school ESOL students as part of A+ Partners in Education.
  • Friends of Howard County Library established an endowment fund with the Columbia Foundation.
  • The HCLS Board of Trustees adopted the Howard County Library System Facilities and Assessment Master Plan: Facilities and Services 2005 to 2030.
  • HCLS was named Educator of the Year by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.
  • HCLS was named Non-Profit Business of the Year by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.
  • The Howard County Commission on Disabilities awarded HCLS the Accessibility Award for its American Sign Language video collection.
  • HCPSS awarded HCLS the Triple A Partnership Award for its significant contributions to Accelerating the Academic Achievement of students in Howard County through A+ Partners in Education.
  • President & CEO Valerie J. Gross was recognized as a national leader in Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers 2004: The People who are Shaping the Future of Libraries.
  • HCLS won the national Lemony Snicket contest sponsored by Harper Collins, hosting a notable author event featuring Lemony Snicket attended by more than 1,000 fans.
  • HCLS’ Central Branch hosted Alma Powell, wife of then General Colin Powell, who spoke to join the third-grade students from the Central Branch’s A+ liaison schools.
  • HCLS launched a Cancer Information Collection at its Central Branch.
  • The first public library system in Maryland to do so, HCLS began offering free wireless Internet access at all branches.
  • HCLS replaced the operating system of the entire fleet of public access PCs with Linux.
  • E-mail notifications were introduced to inform customers about return dates of materials borrowed.
  • HCLS partnered with the Farmers Market and Economic Development Authority to host Farmers Markets at the HCLS East Columbia and Glenwood branches.
  • More than 500 guests attended Evening in the Stacks: Upon and Ever After.
  • Susan Minot was featured at HCLS’ Notable Author Event.


  • HCLS  ranked first in the nation among the great public library systems (Hennen’s 2005 American Public Library Ratings, American Libraries).
  • HCLS launched a new HCLS brand using the “Hi” logo as our visual identity, reflecting HCLS’ progressive nature while emphasizing its customer service and high-quality public education for everyone.
  • HCLS celebrated the 10th anniversary of HCLS’ East Columbia Branch.
  • HCLS became a required field trip as part of the HCPSS Kindergarten curriculum.
  • HCLS registered with Scripps National as an official Regional Bee, then launched the first HCLS Spelling Bee, establishing the academic competition as part of A+ Partners in Education.
  • Launched Teen Time, an HCLS East Columbia Branch academic after-school initiative.
  • HCLS partnered with Howard County Tourism and Howard County Government on the Blossoms of Hope project, an initiative to beautify Howard County with 1,000 memorial Kawanzan cherry trees.
  • HCLS implemented the loaning of e-books to be downloaded to computer or PDA.
  • HCLS produced “Blast Off to Reading,” a summer reading video that garnered a Telly Award.
  • Strong Foundations, Enduring Success, HCLS’ strategic plan for 2006 through 2010, was developed.
  • Nearly 550 guests attended Evening in the Stacks: Passport to Asia.


  • Teen ‘Zine, an HCLS online publication written and produced by teens, was launched.
  • HCLS introduced Cultural Connections to expand its curriculum for everyone in our culturally diverse community.
  • The Cancer Information Collection at the HCLS Central Branch was expanded into a Health Education Center
  • HCLS partnered with HC DrugFree to increase awareness of substance abuse prevention in Howard County.
  • HCLS established a partnership with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
  • HCLS established a new Transitions Collection with resources specifically designed for adult readers new to this country.
  • Best-selling author Jack Gantos was featured as part of the Outstanding Children’s Author Series.
  • HCLS held a Tropical Evening in the Stacks.
  • The HCLS BumbleBee was launched, a companion initiative to the HCLS Spelling Bee for first, second, and third grade students.


  • HCLS expanded hours of operation to include year-round summer Sunday hours at the HCLS Central and Miller branches.
  • President & CEO Valerie J. Gross was selected to represent Maryland public libraries on the State’s Gifted and Talented Advisory Council.
  • As lead organization in the community-wide initiative Choose Civility, HCLS convinced 40 Alliance Partners to join in to make Howard County a national model of respect, consideration, empathy, and tolerance.
  • HCLS held Evening in the Stacks: Jazz.
  • HCLS launched “This is Your Life,” a partnership among HCLS, the Columbia Archives, the Howard County Historical Society, and Howard County Historical Society to record oral interviews with local residents.


  • HCLS categorized under “Education” in the County’s operating and capital budget categories, joining Howard County Public School System and Howard Community College as the three major educational institutions in Howard County
  • Initiated Battle of the Books reading competition for fifth grade students
  • Formalized partnerships with the Girl Scouts and the Autism Society
  • Launched a state-of-the-art Website
  • Organized Notable Author Events featuring Julia Glass, Gene Yang, and Bruce Coville
  • Established a Financial Education Center at the Central Branch
  • Added Howard Community College and Lincoln College of Technology as official A+ Partners
  • Dedicated cherry tree groves at the Central and East Columbia branches in partnership with Blossoms of Hope and Howard County Tourism
  • Hosted the Exhibit “Frankenstein Penetrating the Secrets of Nature,” on loan from the National Library of Medicine (NLM)
  • Coordinated the first 5K & Family Fun Run
  • Held Evening in the Stacks: Walk the Red Carpet


  • Received top ranking in Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings
  • In its list of best counties to raise a family, Forbes magazine specifically cited HCLS as a contributing factor
  • Established HCLS Institute (formerly the employee training program)
  • Won ALA’s Best of Show for our FY08 Evening in the Stacks materials
  • Added credit card payment options for customers in all branches and online
  • Added the new Playaway format to our audiobook collection
  • Incorporated Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, blogs, and videos into our curriculum and communications
  • Hosted an exhibit of photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope
  • Developed an expanded vision for Cultural Connections, to include Project Literacy, World Languages Collection, Translation Services, ASL Collection, Bilingual Children’s Classes (Chinese, Korean, Spanish and ASL), Adult Basic Education Classes (e.g., English Conversation), Foreign Films, Studying for Citizenship, Learning a Language, and Passport Services
  • Welcomed Congressman Elijah Cummings as Honorary Chair of the Choose Civility Board of Advisors
  • Unveiled the mosaic “Underwater Treasures” at our Elkridge Branch in conjunction with Howard County Government, the Howard County Arts Council, HCPSS, and artist Mary Deacon Opasik
  • Established HCLS as a launching point in the STEM pipeline of future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to fill high-tech jobs by implementing an impressive line-up of inspiring STEM-related pre-school and elementary school age classes
  • Organized the first Choose Civility Symposium featuring Joe Ehrman, former Baltimore Colts defensive lineman
  • Held Evening in the Stacks: Along the Silk Road, with renowned author Manil Suri
  • Extended A+ Educator Cards to preschool teachers


  • Unveiled Public Education for All: Howard County Library System’s Strategic Plan 2010-2015 
  • Featured as the 2010 Wiley Library Spotlight, which highlights a nationally recognized library system each year
  • Awarded Public Libraries’ Best Feature Article for “Transforming Our Image Through Words That Work”
  • Received the State of Maryland International Reading Association’s Literacy Award for A+ Partners in Education and HCLS Project Literacy
  • Received Excellence in the Community Award from the Arc of Howard County
  • Orchestrated Evening in the Stacks: Caliente!
  • Organized nine major author events including renowned authors Diana Gabaldon, Laurie King, Temple Grandin, James McBride, Julie Otsuka, and Rebecca Skloot
  • Coordinated and hosted the first Money Matters Fair at our East Columbia Branch
  • Introduced Pass the Book, a new A+ initiative for teens
  • Established a Passport Acceptance Facility at our East Columbia Branch
  • Coordinated the Career Technology Education Kickoff in partnership with HCPSS and MSDE
  • Organized a Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new Charles E. Miller Branch & Historical Center
  • Organized the Choose Civility Symposium “Ethics Alarms: Nurturing Your Best Instincts in an Unethical World”
  • Held Evening in the Stacks: Caliente!
  • Added a bookmark contest to the A+ Partners in Education curriculum


  • Received the Wiley Award for Excellence, an award given to one library system each year for extraordinary customer service, creativity and commitment
  • Implemented the library automation system Polaris
  • Launched a collection of 60 ebook readers
  • Expanded ebooks to include Overdrive, Tumblebooks, BookFLIX, and True Flix
  • Initiated the HCLS Rube Goldberg Challenge, an academic competition for fourth and fifth grade students incorporating STEM
  • Launched Well & Wise, a partnership with Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine to advance health education
  • Celebrated the Glenwood Branch’s 10th Anniversary
  • Held a Topping Out Ceremony for the new Miller Branch
  • Hosted 19 major author events, including Alexander McCall Smith, Warren St. John, and Michelle Singletary
  • Designed and installed Choose Civility banners at all HCPSS high school gyms and athletic fields in partnership with Howard County Rotary Clubs
  • Implemented HCLS “Traditions” (formerly new employee orientation) to immerse new employees into HCLS’ unique culture
  • Organized the Choose Civility Symposium “The Role of Civility in Democracy”
  • Held Evening in the Stacks: The Roaring 20s
  • After completing the design, engineering and site preparation phases, began construction of the new Charles E. Miller Branch & Historical Center


  • Designated a national “Star” library system, receiving the highest five-star rating and prominence as featured library (Library Journal)
  • Ranked in the national Top 10 libraries Borrowing Per Capita (American Libraries)
  • Nationally recognized as a premier library system in HAPLR Rankings (American Libraries)
  • American Libraries’ Library Design Showcase featured the new Miller Branch
  • Received “Best of Show” PR Xchange award for source
  • Received Public Libraries’ Best Feature Article for “Choose Civility: Public Libraries Take Center Stage”
  • Celebrated a decade of A+ Partners in Education with the Howard County Public School System and Howard Community College
  • Orchestrated the Grand Opening of the Charles E. Miller Branch & Historical Center, attracting a crowd of 7,000
  • Received a $100,000 federal grant to launch HiTech, a STEM education initiative for teens that teaches 21st century science, technology, engineering, and math skills via project-based classes
  • Formed Tech Squads systemwide to assist customers with downloading e-books and audiobooks
  • Filmed “Traditions: The History of Howard County Library System,” a documentary video
  • Inaugurated the Enchanted Garden, an innovative outdoor teaching venue at the HCLS Miller Branch that centers on science and health education. The Garden features a pond and stream, 65 native species of plants, a Peter Rabbit Patch, and a Pizza Garden, as well as environmental education—including a rain garden, bioswale, rain barrels, porous surfaces, and compost bins.
  • Organized Evening in the Stacks: Masquerade
  • Introduced our Culture Café in partnership with HCPSS and the Columbia Association featuring Asian cultures
  • Presented Notable Author events featuring Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman
  • Launched a Well & Wise blog
  • Expanded our HiTech partners to include the UMBC Joint Center for Earth Systems and University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering
  • Partnered in the Howard County Arts Council’s ARTsites 2012, displaying public art sculptures at four branches
  • Named the Miller Branch frog sculptures via communitywide “Name the Frogs Contest” (the winning names: Miss Ann Phibian & Lily, and Frederick Toad)
  • Organized the Choose Civility Symposium “Building a Responsible, Bully-Free Community”
  • Nearly 700 guests attended Evening in the Stacks: Masquerade, featuring renowned author Lisa See


  • Selected as best library system in North America from among 21,000 public and academic library systems (2013 Library of the Year, Gale/Library Journal). Recognized for our standing as an educational institution and unparalleled curriculum, which Library Journal hailed “a 21st century model worthy of study and consideration by every other library in America, if not the world”
  • Received Top Innovator Award from the Urban Libraries Council for HiTech
  • Designated again as a Five-Star library system by Library Journal
  • Recognition as Library of the Year in the Congressional Record
  • Attained LEED Gold Certification for the Miller Branch
  • Received the distinguished Wintergreen Award, a sustainability design award from the U.S. Green Building Council (U.S.G.B.C), Maryland Chapter, in the category of “Community Impact” for the new Miller Branch
  • Received Best of Show PR Xchange award for source
  • Added Mango, an online product that teaches 45 foreign languages and 15 ESL courses
  • Created a mobile site
  • Expanded e-book collection to 50,000 items
  • Designed the Choose Civility Cool Cat (mascot)
  • Established the HiTech Board of Advisors
  • Expanded HiTech’s curriculum to include classes in robotics and nanotechnology
  • Exhibited “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” at the Central Branch
  • Held six Notable Author events featuring Isabel Wilkerson, Amy Stewart, Edward P. Jones, Nobel Laureate in Physics Dr. John Mather, and William Kamkwamba
  • Inspired four Choose Civility Chapters: Washington County, MD; Freeborn County, MN; Portland, ME; and Miami, FL
  • Partnered in the Howard County Arts Council’s ARTsites 2013, displaying public art sculptures at three branches
  • Organized the Choose Civility Symposium “Would it Kill You to be More Civil?”
  • Held Evening in the Stacks: Sparkle & Spurs, featuring renowned author Mary Doria Russell
  • Statistics set new records:
    • 7.4 million items borrowed
    • 3.2 million visits
    • 2 million research assistance interactions
    • 252,000 students of all ages attended HCLS classes and events
    • 30,000 students enrolled in Summer Reading Clubs
    • 900 fifth grade students (180 teams) participated in Battle of the Books (four venues)