It's been more than a quarter of a century since the last time plans were in the works for a major upgrade for the Havre de Grace Branch of the Harford County Public Library.
Back then, Havre de Grace had fallen on hard times and suffice it to say the community was in need of a major lift. A proposal was floated that would have put a major library branch, plus the library system headquarters, on Revolution Street in what was then a vacant building, but would eventually be redeveloped into the professional center it is today.
Instead, a plan won out that would have the library at its present location at the corner of Pennington and Union avenues, more or less across the street from what was then City Hall. On the logic that the city was better off keeping public buildings in a cluster near the downtown, the library ended up at the Union Avenue location, though the facility was substantially smaller than it would have been at the Revolution Street site.
The logic that the city would have been well served being a hub for an important, countywide institution, like a library headquarters, lost out.
All these years later, there's no solid way to say which side had the better argument. Sure, Havre de Grace has been reinvented and it has become something of an evening destination spot while retaining its blue collar manufacturing job base and its long-standing marina trade.
Havre de Grace is probably as vibrant as it has been in generations, but the location of the library on Union Avenue rather than Revolution Street is rather incidental to the city's revitalization. Attractions have flowered many blocks to the south in the vicinity of the Concord Point Lighthouse and Tydings Park.
The former city hall building is in flux, with plans in the works to turn it back into what it started as, an opera house; the new City Hall is no longer near downtown.
Now the plan for the library is to add a second floor, build something with about twice the floor space as the existing facility. It'll probably be of a size that would have been ideal 25 years ago, even as it is OK for modern Havre de Grace. There are mitigating factors. If plans for the revamped opera house come to fruition, the two facilities will have the potential to serve as a strong, unified cultural attraction.
It's good to know that the plan for the library is to turn it into something that it could well have been, had it been built at the Revolution Street site all those years ago, namely a countywide attraction.
Just that it's going to have a second story, though, makes the new plan for the library a good one. When it comes to books, the more stories, the better.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun