The lighting at the Baltimore County Public Library's Randallstown branch yesterday was new and improved, as was the young adult area and the cluster of four comfy chairs near the returns desk.
But for Teddy Giorgilli of Randallstown, the best part of the $1.2 million library restoration was just being able to enter the library again for the first time since fire destroyed the building in May.
"I'm so excited," said Giorgilli, who has been a patron of the library since it opened in 1967 and visits it almost every day to check out mysteries and novels. Yesterday, she was one of the first patrons through the library's doors.
"Everyone who works here is so wonderful, so helpful. It is just the friendliest library in the world," Giorgilli said as her husband, Tony, paged through a magazine in the library's new, improved reading room.
Everett Friedman surveyed the bustling branch yesterday morning with a look of contentment.
"To me there are two major institutions on Liberty Road," said Friedman, president of the Friends of the Randallstown Library, a group that raises money and supports library activities. "One is Northwest Hospital and the other is the library. These give the area its vitality."
The May 5 fire at the popular library branch caused extensive structural, smoke and water damage and closed the building. Library officials had hoped the damage could be repaired in a few months, but the project proved to be complex and required that the building be stripped to its concrete walls.
Fire Department officials have not determined the cause.
The refurbished library boasts new carpeting and ceiling tiles, new computer and telephone systems and a state-of-the art fire alarm and sprinkler system, according to library manager Darcy Cahill.
Although the fire destroyed only about 3,000 books in the library's 162,000-item collection, most of the collection had to be sent out to be cleaned of smoke odors and treated to prevent mildew.
Since July, the library has operated temporarily from a double-wide trailer in the parking lot, which, although outfitted with 10 computers, had only 1,200 square feet instead of 29,000. Cahill recalls staffers nearly sitting on one another's laps to complete their work and children marching through the trailer at story time singing "God Bless America."
"We are all ecstatic to be back," Cahill said. "It's been a very difficult, challenging year, but what we're feeling is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and pride in what's been done."
Danyelle Jaen of Randallstown and her 17-month-old son, Joshua, waited in their car for an hour for the library to open. Within minutes of walking through the door, Joshua held court in the spacious children's section dashing from a coloring project to a computer and back again. After months of visiting the temporary library, his mother said he was thrilled with the real thing.
"He's so excited," she said. "He's like, `Wait a minute, I have all of this?'"