Harford County library officials expect design work on the new Bel Air Library to get under way by the end of next month, but ground will not be broken for the $7.5 million renovation and expansion project for more than a year.
The county's Board of Estimates on Jan. 19 awarded a $503,775 contract for design and engineering to the Havre de Grace-based firm of Getz, Taylor & Koster.
The same company conducted a feasibility study on the library site at Hickory and Pennsylvania avenues at county expense last spring. Its report concluded that a 54,000-square-foot building -- more than twice the size of the existing 1960s-era facility -- could be constructed on the property.
James Massey, the library's project manager, said the Havre de Grace architects were chosen for their design services because, among other things, "they are very proficient in phasing the construction" so the branch could remain open during renovation. Efforts will be made to cause as little disruption as possible, he said.
"Over 2,000 people a day come into that library," Mr. Massey said, "and we're very concerned about being able to stay on the site while construction progresses."
He said the architectural firm also stresses flexibility, an important consideration in an era of rapidly changing technology.
"We may become less and less of a book warehouse [in the future] and more of a repository of information, and they have that vision," said Mr. Massey, who also is coordinator of administrative services for the county library system.
The design and engineering phase of the work is expected to take about a year. In their capital budget request for fiscal 1996, library officials are seeking $6.5 million from the county -- slightly less than $500,000 to complete the engineering and site development and just more than $6 million for construction costs.
If the requests are granted, construction will begin in mid-1996, and the building is expected to be completed in the fall of 1997. Mr. Massey said the library will seek an additional $1.088 million for furniture and equipment in fiscal 1997.
The feasibility study proposed two different layouts for the library, which will include the 22,000 square feet of original space and a 32,000-square-foot addition. Both options for a two-story building stretch into what is now a parking lot behind the library and a half-acre of Shamrock Park that the town of Bel Air has donated to the library.
Mr. Massey said the officials had not chosen a layout yet. He said they may create a third, "hybrid" schematic after design discussions begin in earnest.
Whatever the blueprint, he said, the library will continue to operate while the addition is built. When work is completed, the staff and equipment will move into it while the original building is renovated. The renovation will include new mechanical and electrical systems.
"This is by far the largest building we've ever considered," Mr. Massey said. The next largest branch in Harford County is the 14,000-square-foot Joppa library.
Library consultant helping
The Bel Air facility also is the first branch that will be designed in part by a library consultant. William Koster, a Cleveland architect who is joining the Havre de Grace firm for the project, has helped design more than 30 libraries throughout the country.
Bel Air Library was built in 1960, and a wing was added in 1967. The pending work will more than double the library's size, but Mr. Massey said that the population that the library serves will be 10 times what it was in 1967 when the work is finished.
In 1967, the Bel Air branch had about 8,000 patrons. Today, there are an estimated 75,000 people living in the Bel Air service area, he said. By the year 2000, 86,000 residents are expected.