Haven History: Librarian saves books from flood

By Lou Bernard
Adult Services Coordinator

November 29, 2012

Photo courtesy of explorepahistory.com
Lock Haven Residents boat down Main Street during 1936 flood.

You don’t often hear the phrase “as tough as a librarian.” But Mary Elizabeth Crocker was both of those.

Mary Elizabeth Crocker was born in Williamsport, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Anne Crocker. She returned to Williamsport to become First Assistant Librarian at James V. Brown in 1907.

She moved to Lock Haven in 1920. Mary was on several state committees and sent books to the troops during both World Wars. She wrote poetry, much of which was published in a book after her death in 1942. One of her poems is entitled “Markets,” and is about Lock Haven.

“Paris,—Madeleine,—Devon,—?

Flower sellers clustered all around Charing Cross—Trafalgar—Nelson—

Covent Garden—4 a.m.—carts.

But come and walk down Church Street in Lock Haven in the spring

Under the maples, and the chestnuts, and the elm trees.

Before the sun’s awakened and the farmer folk are driving

From Loganton and Aaronsburg, Swissdale and Flemington,

Nittany and Beech Creek, Cedar Run and Cherry—Laurel,

McElhattan Oaks—All the way from Zion.”

Mary was curator of the Clinton County Historical Society, and then went on to the Ross Library. This is something that only the coolest people do.

Mary took over the position in 1920 from Elveretta Blake, who only held it for one year. Mary beat that by over two decades, spending twenty-two years working at the Ross Library. During this time period, the librarian lived in the upstairs area on the second and third floors.

And then came the flood of 1936.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, the river flooded. Beginning about eleven-thirty at night, Mary began moving books to the second floor to save them. She fractured her shoulder, but it didn’t stop her.

It was days later when the floodwaters went down. Mary later confessed that she’d been on the third floor, trying to decide which section of roof would be safest.

In the spring of 1942, Mary was sent to the Williamsport Hospital, where she passed away on May 19. A room on the second floor of the library bears her name—The Crocker Room, a section of the children’s library. Sometimes when I’m up there, I think about Mary, and her poetry.

“Massed in their glory,—

What a matter of thanksgiving is it to see a market in a street in old Lock Haven.”

Lou Bernard is an Adult Services Coordinator for Ross Library and can be contacted at ross13@rosslibrary.com

 
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