Library director appeals to public Community is asked to support larger Eldersburg branch

February 23, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The director of the Carroll County Public Library wants to expand the branch in the county's fastest-growing area -- and she's gathering support from community groups in South Carroll.

In a letter to more than 20 business and homeowners associations, Linda Mielke wrote that "the size of the Eldersburg library has not kept pace with the growth in South Carroll and is now too crowded to serve you effectively."

Mielke has asked residents to write or call commissioners and to attend a public hearing on the library's capital budget.

Since 1993, the board of library trustees has submitted plans annually to renovate the 14,723-square-foot building, which opened in 1983. Those plans have made it through the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission four times only to fall to the budget ax.

"We have been in line long enough," said Mielke. "It is our turn this year. This project has been under my watch for three years and has gone nowhere."

Plans call for expanding the children's area by 3,400 square feet by using existing space in an adjoining building. The project would allow for more children's books and materials and would cost $488,590.

A second phase would add another 5,000 square feet to adult services at a cost of $616,500. Plans also include providing more parking for the building, which is open 60 hours a week. There would be no need to increase the staff of 17 full-time and 10 part-time employees.

"This is a growing library, and I can see the need," said County Commissioner Richard T. Yates. "If we have the money, I would like to see them expand."

The Eldersburg branch, which serves a population of more than 25,000, is a close second to Westminster in usage among the county's five library branches, accounting for 25 percent of all items borrowed.

"If Eldersburg had better access and more parking, it would probably surpass Westminster," said Mielke. "Its size is inhibiting its growth."

Carroll County, with a long history of library usage, leads the state in borrowing. Nearly 80 percent of Carroll's 144,000 residents carry library cards.

"We serve a high percentage of people efficiently and economically," said Robert Sapora, chairman of the library board of trustees.

"A lot of people depend on libraries for their information. The people who use Eldersburg are behind us on this expansion," he said.

Public funds needed

The money should come from public funds as soon as possible, he said.

"When we talk of expanding a library, our first thought should not be a bake sale," Sapora said.

Renovation would require no purchase of land and no new construction other than the elimination of a wall between the library and adjoining space soon to be vacated by the county Health Department.

State reductions in mental health services mean the county department no longer needs the facility in South Carroll.

Kenneth Holniker, founding member of the South Carroll Business Association, called the library project cost-effective.

"The library can occupy the rest of an existing building," he said. "This is a lot cheaper than building a whole new wing."

The groups Mielke contacted, including the business association, have all used the library's meeting room, the only meeting area open to the public in South Carroll. Reservations for the room are made months in advance.

"The library is the critical heart of this community," Holniker said. "The entire leadership of the community is behind this project. The business association has endorsed it and is prepared to do anything to see it done."

Offering input

The Freedom Area Community Planning Council and Solutions for a Better South Carroll also plan to lobby the commissioners for the project.

"If the citizens of South Carroll are interested in seeing this project completed, I am optimistic that it will be funded," said Mielke.

A public hearing on the library capital budget will be at 7: 15 p.m. March 18 at the Westminster Senior Center, 125 Stoner Ave.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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