West County residents set to celebrate new library branch in Maryland City $4.3 million building replaces rented storefront

October 09, 1998|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

For 20 years, visitors to the Maryland City library branch, the smallest in the county, longed for one thing: space.

This weekend they will get their wish. The Maryland City at Russett branch, on Russett Common, opens tomorrow in a $4.3 million building.

At 15,214 square feet, more than four times the size of the cramped storefront the busy library once occupied, it will be the largest community library in the county. The building has a meeting room and a collection of 80,000 items, more than twice )) what it once had.

"There's just more," said Gloria Davis, branch manager. "More CDs, more books, more magazines more chairs for the public."

Employees have spent hundreds of hours getting the building ready. They spent more than 300 hours placing materials on the new shelves.

Then there's "stamping, stickering, moving -- everything," said employee Wendy Crigger, as well as decorating, labeling, cleaning and touch-up painting.

"I can't wait to see the looks on the faces of the community when they come," Davis said. "I think they're going to like it."

And what's not to like?

The carpet smells fresh, the walls are freshly painted, and the shelves are stocked with thousands of new books. There's a meeting room, which the old branch lacked, and 10 new computers -- including one in the children's section -- with Internet access.

The children's section has child-size bookshelves and seating to make it easier for young visitors to be independent. It even comes with a 3-foot stuffed hippopotamus to pounce on. And unlike the old library, it has private desks and some not-so-private ones for children to do homework.

The new library also is accessible to the disabled and has more bathrooms with baby changing tables.

The changes are welcome, said Laura Walters, who led the move for a new library in the West County community.

"I'm just so excited about it," she said. "So many needs were not being met. We felt we had to do something about it."

Residents began pushing for a new library about four years ago, when it was clear that the tiny space the county rented temporarily 20 years ago could not support the growing population in Russett, Maryland City and Laurel Highlands.

The Russett Center Limited Partnership donated 2 acres, and community members and library officials lobbied the County Council for the building.

The new branch is built to serve the estimated 16,000 West County residents, but officials also expect to serve neighbors from Prince George's County, only a few miles away.

"It's state of the art, and we've matched what we think will be the growth in that part of the county," said library administrator Robert Kozlowski.

Opening-day festivities begin at 9: 45 a.m. tomorrow and continue with a dedication ceremony at 10 a.m., a clown show at noon, storytelling at 12: 30 p.m. and a puppet show at 2: 30 p.m.

Pub Date: 10/09/98

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