Loch Raven library due to reopen at original site Even scaled-down, facility called victory for residents

December 12, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

For the past several months, Loch Raven area residents have resigned themselves to a new minilibrary in a nearby shopping center.

But, all along, they wanted the library back at its old location on Taylor Avenue. Now, they're getting their wish.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger announced this week that a minilibrary -- to replace a full-service library that was closed in 1993 -- would move into the Taylor Avenue building next year. Remodeling is expected to start in two to three months.

"Christmas comes a little early," said Loch Raven Village resident Wayne Skinner. "We're elated now that it's going back where it belongs."

The move became possible when the county decided to relocate the Department of Social Services Child Advocacy Center to a space closer to Towson, freeing space in the building. A community health center will remain at the location.

Most residents said they don't mind sharing the space.

"Parking is good. People can walk to it," said Peggy Lombardi, who has lived in Hillendale for 40 years. "People were so devastated that the library was gone."

Area residents have been seeking a library since budget cuts forced the closure of the branch in 1993. In the fall last year, they organized a letter-writing and petition-gathering campaign to show their support for the library's return.

But Ruppersberger, citing budget restraints, said he could fund only a smaller, volunteer-staffed library. He proposed placing the new minilibrary in the former Loch Raven Elementary School on Glen Keith Boulevard.

County officials soon determined it would cost too much to renovate space in the old school. They then focused on the retail corner at Loch Raven Boulevard and Taylor Avenue, settling on three contiguous storefronts in the Pleasant Plains Shopping Center.

But structural problems would have made the renovation too costly, said Michael H. Davis, Ruppersberger's spokesman.

"We kept looking at the issue of cost," Ruppersberger said. "We said, "Let's go back and re-evaluate and give the community what they want.' "

The minilibrary will take up 3,000 square feet in the former library building. Start-up and first-year operating costs are estimated at $325,000.

County library director Jim Fish said his staff has been "buying materials like crazy" for the scaled-down library, which will be open about 50 hours a week. They have spent about $130,000 on 18,000 books that "will highlight all ages and a variety of interests."

The Loch Raven Mini Library also will feature computer work stations. It will be staffed by one full-time worker, a couple of part-timers and volunteers.

"It's a great day for the people in the Loch Raven community," Fish said. "Now it's our job to get it moving as quickly as possible."

Pub Date: 12/12/97

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