USA Media Report – Westmoreland courthouse law library renamed for woman who showed caring, compassion to all

Great to see that this Law Librarian gets the recognition she so deserves


If a defendant unable to afford representation walked into the law library at the Westmoreland County Courthouse looking for help, librarian Betty Ward treated them the same as an attorney with decades of experience.

Watching Ward work was on-the-job training, said Pamela Snyder, who served as librarian assistant since 2016.

“There were times they entered distraught and overwhelmed by the legal difficulties they were in,” Snyder said. “Betty would calmly, patiently listen to their laments and she would quietly and gently provide them with whatever legal resources … to give them guidance to do their own reading.”

Ward’s compassion and caring attitude has stuck with many — the law library on Friday was renamed in her honor during a ceremony at the Greensburg courthouse. New lettering was unveiled at the library’s two entrances and a plaque spelling out her decades of dedication was hung inside.

Ward, 71, of Greensburg, died Aug. 11, 2023, after a yearlong battle with cancer. She was law librarian at the courthouse since 1989.

About 60 people, including judges and attorneys, gathered Friday in a darkened courtroom for a dedication ceremony after a power outage related to a fallen tree left the courthouse — and law library — with limited electricity for a time. Speakers shared fond memories of her, many echoing the same comments about Ward’s love of her work, efficiency and kindness.

“The renaming of this library in her honor verifies all of this, for no other space in the courthouse bears the name of anyone who worked here,” retired Westmoreland County judge Daniel J. Ackerman said in a statement read during the ceremony by Amy DeMatt, court administrator.

The library has shelves of books and manuals, but Ward enjoyed setting out jigsaw puzzles for lawyers, county employees and citizens to help complete during their busy days. That added to the friendly, welcoming atmosphere Ward strived to create, said attorney Peter P. Cherellia.

Over the years, she helped transition the library into the digital world as methods of legal research changed.

“It is fitting that we should dedicate that library to someone as dedicated as Betty was,” he said.

Meghan Ward VanCleve recalled her mother’s excitement at starting her career at the courthouse after serving as librarian at the Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood.

“In my early years, accompanying her to the courthouse was always a special experience,” VanCleve said. “I always requested we walk down the fancy steps and I shared my disappointment and concern that there was an absence of pictures in the law books.”

Ward relished every moment of her career and she’d be deeply touched that the library now bears her name, VanCleve said.

“Even now when I see a law book on TV, I can’t help but think of her,” she said. “Perhaps you feel the same way.”