State Library for Blind celebrates new location $8 million project doubles capacity

August 31, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

There's a library in Baltimore that never puts a due date on borrowed materials and never sets a limit on the number of books and cassettes that users can take out.

It gets so much use that it had to double its capacity.

It's the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a 25-year-old institution in new headquarters at Park Avenue and Franklin Street.

Librarians held an open house yesterday to show that the $8.6 million facility is fully equipped and ready for business after more than a year of construction.

"We don't have a problem" with overdue books, said systems operator Tom Martin. "Our patrons are just grateful for the service. And we have some voracious readers. Some people read 10 books a week."

Nationwide, there are 700,000 blind and physically handicapped readers who borrow materials by mail from the U.S. Library of Congress' National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, with which the Maryland library is affiliated.

They read or listen to recordings of 23 million books and magazines a year -- or more than 30 books per person. "That's 29 percent more than sighted individuals," said Frank Kurt Cylke, director of the National Library Service.

Designed by Ayers-Saint-Gross of Baltimore, the Maryland library was constructed at the corner of Park Avenue and Franklin Street to replace a smaller facility inside a former bowling alley.

Offering more than 200,000 books and 80 magazine titles in audio, Braille and large-print format, the library serves 17,000 people a year. Most patrons borrow materials by mail.

More than 100 visitors, including dozens of blind or partially sighted patrons, gathered inside the main reading room for yesterday's dedication ceremonies. Librarian Lance Finney said he was particularly proud of the new section of children's books and tapes, which was not available at the other location.

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