Residents fight to keep Annapolis library open

Study to help Arundel focus on needs of patrons

February 20, 2005|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Suggestions that the Annapolis Area library branch could close -- and a new regional branch could be built in Parole -- have some residents worried that they will no longer be able to walk to the familiar red-brick library that's been a fixture on West Street since 1965.

A coalition of residents opposed to closing the Annapolis library recently formed and enlisted Mayor Ellen O. Moyer in the cause.

The mayor introduced a resolution at a City Council meeting last week to keep the branch open, even though she acknowledges city government has no direct power over the county library system.

"The library has been an integral part of the life of the city for several hundred years," Moyer said, noting Colonial records that show a lending library started in Annapolis. "It's in such a strategic place, where kids can ride their bikes and people can walk."

Moyer and longtime library users said they believe strongly that a library branch should remain inside the limits of the state capital.

Fears that the branch could close surfaced after a study laid out various options for future library service in the city and county.

One scenario involved building a larger, enhanced library on or near the former Parole Plaza site, where a developer is forging ahead with a $400 million plan for stores, offices and condominiums.

In that case, the West Street branch, the oldest one in the system, could conceivably close, library officials said.

Matt Schatzle, president of the Germantown-Homewood civic association, said a survey of his neighborhood showed that almost all respondents supported keeping the library on the current site and that 75 percent supported enlarging the current building if it needed upgrading.

"This is our library near the Historic District, and I would say all of my fellow residents are concerned," Schatzle said. "It's a no-brainer, with an active, vibrant centerpiece of the community in a very nice location."

Laurie L. Hayes, spokeswoman for the county public library, stressed that no final decisions have been made regarding the branch's future.

"We're not even leaning in one direction," Hayes said. "We appreciate the input, and we need to gather more information, but we are far away from deciding."

Hayes said a $50,000 follow-up study, focusing on the needs and composition of Annapolis library users, will help county library officials determine where to build and how to design a library that fits future trends.

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