Library anticipates branch's groundbreaking

Work is slated to start in late summer or early fall

July 18, 2004|By Sarah Merkey | Sarah Merkey,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Officials of the Harford County Public Library and citizens of Jarrettsville hope to see workers break ground on a library in the center of the town in late summer or early fall, said Audra Caplan, director of the library system.

Edmeades and Stromdahl LDT designed the $3.5 million structure, which will have the capacity to hold about 90,000 items when the collection is complete, Caplan said.

The 14,000-square-foot building will be constructed behind the Manorwood shopping center, next to the Northern Precinct of the Harford County Sheriff's Office, Caplan said.

Officials originally planned to put the library in half of a former supermarket in the Manorwood center, but the building was not ideal for a library, and it was decided that the Sheriff's Office, which uses the other half of the supermarket, should use the entire space, said John Stewart, president of the Jarrettsville branch of Friends of the Harford County Public Library.

"It worked out very well," said Stewart. "Instead of contriving a supermarket, the separate building would be much more functional and attractive. We're going to have a very nice library."

The new library will feature a fireside reading area where patrons can sit on sofas and chairs. A virtual fire will provide the warmth and atmosphere of a wood fire, said Stewart.

"It's going to have all the appeal of an actual fire," Stewart said.

The library will also feature a drive-through transaction window that has been implemented other new branches, allowing customers to pick up and return books without leaving their cars. A digital sign will be placed roadside to provide messages about events, programs, meetings and closings, Stewart said.

A feasibility study showed that there are about 20,000 potential patrons for a Jarrettsville library, and drive-by traffic could provide more business. About 4,000 of those potential patrons are children who don't have a convenient public library, Stewart said.

Stewart, a former teacher at North Harford High School, said he was upset that none of his Jarrettsville-area students had access to a library.

"They went all the way through school without a local library," Stewart said, pointing out that a lot of Jarrettsville resident don't use a library because of the inconvenience. Those that do use a library, he said, must often make an out-of-the-way trip to Fallston, or visit the library in Bel Air while shopping.

"Library officials expect this to be a very busy and popular branch," Stewart said.

He attributes part of that prediction to the positive reaction of the Jarrettsville community. The Jarrettsville Friends of the Library boasts 1,535 members. Most community Friends of the Library groups form after a library opens, he said, and even then he said they don't have such high numbers.

"It's never happened before - in this case we've had overwhelming interest and support in Jarrettsville," Stewart said.

The plans for the library began in April 1998, when Stewart heard about a family in Madonna that was willing to donate land to the county for a library. Although that land was not deemed central enough for a library location, the generosity was a catalyst.

In the fall of 1998, 18 library supporters attended a Harford County Public Library board meeting held at the Bel Air branch, and convinced the board members of the need to explore the option of a Jarrettsville library, Stewart said.

Once the project got under way, library supporters enlisted the help of other community organizations, including the Jarrettsville Lions Club, Boy Scout troops and the volunteer Fire Department. Membership forms for the Friends of the Library were distributed through those organizations and placed in local businesses, Stewart said, and they returned in record numbers.

A community meeting was held in June 2002, during which the community was presented with the construction plans. Stewart said more than 125 people attended that event, an indicator of community interest and involvement.

A meeting was held in November that informed citizens of the design and floor plans.

"I'm very excited and happy for our community," Stewart said. "The Jarrettsville library is expected to become the center of our community and provide a new era of cultural social and educational opportunities for residents of all ages."

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