Baltimore County's busiest library will become its smallest this week as the Cockeysville branch undergoes a $2.2 million renovation that will add space, materials and equipment.
The library, in a 23,000-square-foot building on Greenside Drive since 1982, will close Monday through Friday and reopen as a mini-branch Saturday in what had been its meeting room. The condensed space will offer basic services, allowing patrons to borrow, return and reserve items. Eight computer stations will be available, and patrons will have use of two self-serve check-outs. But, absent the familiar stacks, browsing will be limited.
"Those who want to meander will have to come back when the renovations are done," said Mollie Fein, Cockeysville branch manager. "This mini-library is unique and requires a lot of work, but we want to continue to provide services."
With 3.6 acres, the branch has room to grow, and much of the expansion will take place at the rear of the building. The renovations will add nearly 1,600 feet to the brick building and nearly double the children's area, which will be glassed in and near the front entrance. The plan includes a teen area, with four Internet stations, a flat-screen TV and tutor rooms. In all, there will be 32 computers, 11 more than the library has now. The renovations are expected to take about a year.
"This building has been here for nearly 30 years and most of the shelving has, too," Fein said. "These improvements are responding to the intense demand here."
Of the county's 17 libraries, Cockeysville posts the highest circulation, with nearly 1.2 million items and 582,000 visitors in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
The nearby Police Athletic Center will offer space for some children's programs, beginning late next month, and the Towson and Hereford libraries, the closest branches, are gearing up to handle increased business during the renovation.
Recently, Fein showed Jeanne Noble, a Ruxton resident and frequent patron, a diagram of the expansion. As she has done with numerous visitors in the past few weeks, Fein explained the changes and the interim plan.
"We want you to keep coming because we are going to be here," Fein said. "We will get you any item that you want, and you can also reserve online."
Noble, clutching a canvas bag filled with books, said the renovation sounded like a wonderful idea, particularly the quiet room in the new children's section, but she fretted briefly about "no stacks in the mini-library."
"I guess I will go to Towson," Noble said. "But I like this library better."
The staff began packing books a few weeks ago and will empty most of the building this week.
"I have gotten really good at figuring out how many books can fit in each carton," said librarian Diane Hoesch.
But those boxes are not headed for storage. Much of Cockeysville's collection of 180,000 items will be shipped to other branches during the renovation, and many on the staff will work temporarily at other libraries.
Baltimore County officials remain committed to the library system, despite the difficult economy. The county opened its newest branch in Perry Hall this year and has broken ground on a $4.3 million building for the Arbutus Library. At the Woodlawn Library, a $1.7 million Storyville, the system's second early-childhood learning center, is under construction.