Randallstown library branch turns a new page

March 27, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Public Library plans to reopen its Randallstown branch April 29, nearly a year after the building was damaged by fire.

"It's going to be a better, safer building than it was before the disaster," says James H. Fish, the county library system's director.

The building, at 8604 Liberty Road, has been closed since May 5 when a fire caused extensive structural, smoke and water damage. The $1.2 million restoration project involved five contractors, who repaired a portion of the roof and electrical, climate control, computer and telephone systems.

The library also will have new ceiling tiles, carpeting, light fixtures and some new shelving and furniture. In addition, the fire alarm and sprinkler systems have been replaced.

This week, library staff are returning to shelve portions of the library's 162,000-item collection, most of which had to be sent out to be cleaned of smoke odors and treated to prevent mildew. Staff members also are overseeing installation of a new information desk, to be joined next week by new check-out and circulation desks.

Library officials had hoped the damage could be repaired in a few months. But the project proved to be complex, requiring that the building be stripped to its concrete walls.

"In many ways it would have been easier to build a new building," says Fish.

During the restoration project, a mini-library equipped with 10 computer terminals was opened in a trailer near the library. It handled about a third of the library's normal circulation.

Visits to the nearby Reisterstown, Pikesville and Woodlawn libraries increased 18 percent to 20 percent with an influx of Randallstown patrons. But for many residents, it was not the same.

Everett Friedman, president of Friends of the Randallstown Library, missed having access to the reference materials, which did not fit into the trailer. And while he and his wife could drive to another branch, "there are a lot of people who didn't have the wherewithal" to travel, he says.

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