Arbutus Library Groundbreaking Today

August 25, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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From the time volunteers founded the Arbutus Library 61 years ago, it has grown and served its neighborhood. From the basement of a hardware store, the floor above a supermarket and the entrance to a business park, the library has participated in the life of its southwestern Baltimore County community.

Today, the county breaks ground on a $4.3 million, 25,000-square-foot branch that will still have local ties at its core.

"Wherever it was, the library was always the heart of Arbutus," said Gail Ross, branch manager.

The one-level masonry building will be county-owned, instead of leased, at a savings of nearly $300,000 in annual rent. It will include a drive-through window, rooms for fireside reading and meetings, children's and teen activities, and 28 public access computers.

When she asked patrons to share memories for a genealogy center, Ross heard about pet contests, Halloween parties with a costume parade, haunted houses, book sales, flea markets and ice cream socials. The memory bank includes tales from adults who recalled receiving their first library cards and from today's children, who spoke of lessons on library computers. Along with those modern amenities and materials, vintage toys will decorate the glassed-in children's area, Ross said.

The Arbutus-Halethorpe Library opened in the basement of Arbutus Hardware in 1948, with one large table, 10 chairs and about 1,500 donated books. A few years later, it expanded to quarters above an A&P grocery and joined the county library system. In 1992, it took over a furniture showroom in the Arbutus Business Park.

The new branch, scheduled to open late next year, will house a collection that will increase from 79,000 items to about 120,000, "some from our corner of the county," Ross said.

The library will share its 10-acre campus at 855 Sulphur Spring Road with the Arbutus Senior Center and a community center. The county's 20th senior facility will house an exercise studio, crafts and game rooms and a kitchen. Total cost for all three facilities will exceed $9 million, officials said.

With the seniors next door and the recreation center on the property, "there will be a lot of opportunities for joint programs," Ross said.

James Fish, director of Baltimore County's 17-branch system, said moving the library from a business park eliminates competition for parking and makes it more accessible for pedestrians.

"The whole idea is to make people feel comfortable and create spaces with good feelings," he said.

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