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Free to Browse in the Free State

No matter which county issued your card, you can use any library in Maryland

Libraries are this week’s feature story, specifically Anne Arundel public libraries, which have come to the fork in the road and must, as Yogi Berra said, take it.
    Wherever you live, this story of one county’s conflict touches you. For there’s magic in your Maryland library card. No matter what library issued it, your card opens the door to every public library in the state. Wherever you roam, whatever special collections you want to browse, you’re a welcome visitor.
    For me and many South Arundel readers, as well as Calvert Countians, the Calvert County library system is close to home and heart.
    Calvert County’s 90,613 people have four libraries, all within 10 miles of every address. Like Anne Arundel libraries, Calvert’s run a full schedule of events. Most larger events are held at the Central Library and easily draw visitors from more than 20 miles. The four libraries, constructed between 1981 and 2006, encompass 47,140 square feet. The general recommendation for public libraries is a square foot per county resident. By this measure, Library Director Carrie Plymire tells us, Calvert Library is half the size that it should be to best serve the community.
    By the way, no Maryland library lives up to that standard. Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt comes the closest, at .0924. Anne Arundel’s system offers only .0481, the lowest of the nine central Maryland counties.
    Back to Calvert: The county’s central library is Prince Frederick, which moved in 2006 into a newly constructed building: “At 28,000 airy square feet, it doubled our space,” said Patricia Hofmann, the library director in charge of its creation. “There is plenty of room for information in all forms, 27 well-used computers, teaching and get-togethers, even a café.” The cost, 10 years ago, was $8 million.
    Since 2006, Calvert Library Prince Frederick has added another 20 public computers. The meeting rooms are used every day for library programming and community organizations and businesses. Plymire, who replaced Hofmann, says she “often wishes for another 5,000 square feet to accommodate more meeting rooms, a technology lab, creative space for audio and video production and other flexible spaces that would enable Calvert Library to better serve its community.”
    Two more of Calvert’s libraries are upgrading. In 2013, Southern library moved from 3,250 square feet in Lusby to an interim location in Solomons, 9,200 square feet of the old Woodburns grocery store The county spent a little under $1 million, and the Calvert Library Foundation added another $233,000 for additional windows, technology and furniture. A new 16,000-square-foot library for the southern part of the county is slated for land acquisition in fiscal year 2021.
    Twin Beaches branch is currently operating in 4,240 square feet of leased space in Chesapeake Beach. Staff are very creative with their programming — often borrowing space in neighboring senior centers or fire stations — as there aren’t any meeting rooms or dedicated storytime space in the branch. Twin Beaches is slated for a new 16,000-square-foot branch with architecture and engineering to begin in fiscal year 2019. That project is expected to cost approximately $7 million.
    The fourth branch, Fairview, has its feet solidly in the past, looking pretty much the same as when I first used it nearly three decades ago. At 5,200 square feet it is, Plymire says, “a very busy branch right on Route 4 that serves much of the commuting population.”
    With Maryland’s rare magic library card, they’re all yours.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com