Anne Arundel library officials take input in planning future

More books. Artwork. Spaces where reading aloud is OK.

Those were among the suggestions made by Anne Arundel County residents who told county library officials last week what they would like to see in the 15-branch system's future.

Officials are take comments as they work toward adopting a 20-year modernization plan by the end of the year, in time to compete for funds in the county's next budget.

Among considerations is whether — and where — to add public computers and print materials to bring the county libraries in line with state trends and to even out resources around the county, consultant Jeffrey Scherer told those who attended an input session Wednesday in the North County branch in Glen Burnie.

Officials are also looking to plan buildings flexible enough for changing uses, said Hampton "Skip" Auld, library administrator.

Attendees received assurances that print materials won't vanish as the library invests in technology, whether that's public computers or e-readers. Some expressed concern about planning for any particular technology, noting that the VHS tapes of the 1980s and 1990s are dinosaurs and that there's no guarantee that laptops won't lose out to smaller electronic tablets.

"The reason I come to the library is for a book," said Dennis Lamont, who lives near the library. "I lost electricity for one week. … I read a book. I was entertained. As long as you don't take my book, I'm OK."

Carol Adams of Glen Burnie said she doesn't need angled bookshelves that lure readers with displays of the front covers of new books, although those have proved to be successful elsewhere.

"I can read spines. I can walk around like this," she said, tilting her head.

That library officials couldn't hold their session in the branch's meeting room but instead rearranged a section of the main room was indicative of the changes needed. The meeting room was already booked for a program on resources for senior citizens. Library administrators have acknowledged that their meeting rooms are in high demand, and they expect to consider more flexible meeting areas that can be reconfigured based on need — a common feature of newer libraries.

Most of the public's suggestions are being submitted on index cards handed out at the public meetings, and library officials also met with student government leaders earlier in the week. But during and after Wednesday's meeting, people offered up recommendations and said the officials' presentation gave them more to think about.

"I would like to see some sort of partnerships with the historical and genealogical societies in the county," Oscar "Skip" Booth, president of the county's historical society said after the meeting. That would offer wider public use of his group's archives, now crammed into the organization's small library in Glen Burnie.

Gerald Starr of Linthicum, a library trustee, told Auld that he'd like to see a day care center — probably privately run — in a library, as a support for parents going to school and attending library programs.

Officials said they will weigh all the suggestions and needs before deciding what will make it into the long-range plan.

"Every good idea that you have is in competition with every other good idea that you have," Auld said.

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