Greenspring minilibrary to close March 15

Smith Avenue space being converted to offices

February 19, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

After more than three years of struggling to make ends meet, the Greenspring minilibrary -- which was run by volunteers and operated on a shoestring budget -- will close its doors March 15.

Fraeda Lewis, the library's executive director, said that the facility in Greenspring Shopping Center on Smith Avenue is being converted into office space and that she is searching for a new site in the Greenspring area.

"On a scale of one to 10, I'd say it's a dead-even chance that we find another site," said Lewis.

The minilibrary, with its 5,000 books, dozens of audiotapes and a computer for patrons, has been operating with grants from the county and a network of volunteers since it opened in October 1995.

James Fish, director of the Baltimore County library, said it was opened to fill the void left when former Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden closed the Wellwood minilibrary, with seven other small libraries and the full-service Loch Raven branch, during a budget crisis in 1993.

Not formally affiliated with the county's library system, Greenspring minilibrary was given a $50,000 grant its first year and $25,000 "challenge grants" each year after that. It was expected to raise the $25,000 balance through community contributions, Fish said.

Lewis said that the $25,000 in contributions never materialized in either of the successive years. But she said it is the landlord's decision, not a lack of community support, that is forcing the closure.

The landlord, Greenspring Mall Limited Partnership, notified her about a month ago that it was renovating the shopping center and planned to lease the library space -- about the size of a six-car garage -- to other tenants.

The company plans to convert the space, which the library rents for $840 a month, into a suite of professional offices, Lewis said.

"In a way you can't blame the landlords. They can get three times the rent for what they got from having the library here," said Michael Snitzer, president of Pikesville Recreation Council, the umbrella organization that oversaw the library.

The library has operated from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and patrons paid $5 a year to be members, Lewis said. She said the facility had about 500 dues-paying members and about 50 patrons come in each day.

Many made it a regular weekly stop.

"I'm going to miss it terribly. I think a lot of people are," said Evelyn Hillman of Owings Mills, who visited about three times a week and often worked as a volunteer.

Hillman said that she doubts the library's closing will inspire the rallies and protest marches organized in 1993 when the county closed the eight small libraries and the Loch Raven branch.

"I just don't see the support out there," she said.

Fish said that patrons who frequented the Greenspring facility are welcome to use Baltimore County's Pikesville branch library, which is about a mile away on Reisterstown Road.

Fish said he is evaluating proposals for studies, due to be completed by next fall, assessing the county library system's needs and determining if new libraries are needed in the county, including the Greenspring area.

"We're right in the middle of evaluating what our needs are," Fish said.

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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