The boxes have been unpacked, the computers are connected and patrons are slowly trickling in to Laurel's temporary library on Sandy Spring Road.
The former library on Seventh Street, built in 1965, closed on March 8 so that the building can be demolished and prepped for construction of a new, state-of-the art facility. The temporary location, at 8101 Sandy Spring Road and adjacent to the Laurel Municipal Center, opened on March 31.
"Traffic has been picking up and we're starting to see some of our regular customers, especially since we resumed our storytime," said library supervisor Arlene Ogurick. "I think people are just beginning to find us. We had signs up at the old library before we closed but many of the non-regulars probably didn't notice them," she added after giving directions to a patron on the telephone who did not know where the temporary library is located.
Unlike the visible Seventh Street location, the temporary site is tucked away in a first-floor suite.
There's a bright blue awning hanging over the front door, and a large silver and black book drop box just outside the door, which has a sign on it welcoming patrons to the temporary library.
Lee Bodden stopped by for the first time last week and stayed for less than five minutes. He was not impressed with the temporary digs.
"This is not good, but it is a temporary place, so I guess it's what I expected," Bodden said. "I'll go to other libraries in the future."
"A lot of the patrons have gone to other locations, especially the Greenbelt library," said Blaine Halliday, the north regional director for Laurel's library and three others in the county. "We've seen a spike at Greenbelt [in traffic], which is not surprising because it's the closest to Laurel."
The temporary space, which will house the library for the next 18 to 24 months, is neatly laid out, but it is only one-third the size of Seventh Street's former 5,000 square feet of space. The numerous shelves of newspapers, which many people came daily to read, have been reduced to a two-level small cart near the entrance.
The long wall of magazines at the old library was also not duplicated at the new site.
"Magazines have ceased altogether due to the space but we do have the Zinio periodical service where people can download magazines and read them," Halliday said.
There is one circulation and information desk in the new location. Three tables where patrons can work are set up across from the desk, and a wall is lined with computer stations. On one evening last week, about half of the computers were being used by patrons.
Halliday said the temporary library could only accommodate 18 computers; the former library had 30. But the length of time people can use them has been extended if others aren't waiting, he said.
A Laurel resident, who only gave her first name, Carolyn, said she is pleased with the layout and is glad the computers are still available at the temporary location.
"I think it's nice and that it offers the services of the other building, especially computer-wise to accommodate the needs for those who use them for research and to study," she said. "I will continue coming here."
Because of limited space in the temporary location, the video and audio book sections have been reduced to single shelves
"Most of our CDs and videos went to other branches and a lot of our books are in storage," Ogurick said. "Our adult collection is only about three shelves. It was hard, but we tried to be as representative as we could of our collection, with all of the Dewey [Decimal System] numbers represented — fiction, nonfiction, children's books and others — but the size of the space is what it is. It is a nice, attractive and welcoming space, but it's just minimal and small."
According to Halliday, several other locations were considered for the temporary library but they felt this was the best site in terms of rent costs and the adjacent large parking lot
The good news is that patrons can still get books and other materials that are not on the temporary library's shelves by having them ordered from other branches.
The Laurel branch is operating under what is called a floating collection system, which is why Ogurick said they were told to be modest in what books they moved to the new temporary space.
"When things go out, they stay where they go and we'll be getting items in that our clients order. Those things will stay here as they come in. We'll receive new materials daily, so we're asking patrons to ask for things they don't see on the shelves because that's how we'll get new items," Ogurick said.
One of the largest areas in the temporary library is the children's reading section. There's a round table and chairs in that section for parents and children to use and the annual summer reading program will continue on schedule. There's also a larger, closed off room, where different children's programs will be held three mornings each week with story times on Wednesday evenings. On a recent Wednesday evening, about four children and their parents sat on the floor listening to a popular fairy tale and engaged in singing and other activities with librarian Jan Markiewicz.
"So far, we've gotten a few people for our storytelling. This past Saturday, we had two adults and three children," said Markiewicz, who predicted it will pick up soon.
The children's activity room is also used as the library's quiet room between 12:30 and 6 p.m. during operating hours, which have not changed.
"We had to restrict the hours for the room's use as a quiet room since we only have one space to be shared for a variety of purposes," Ogurick said. "Those hours might change because we want to be as responsive as we can be for the community's needs."
Groups such as a local knitting club will also use the room for their gatherings and library officials hope the local chess club will return to share the room as well.
According to Halliday, no large programs or activities such as book signings, discussions and other events that were held at the Seventh Street library are planned for the temporary location because of space restrictions.
Halliday said no date has been set for the demolition of the existing building, but he expects it to happen soon.
"We just cleared everything out of the old building and the county will start the hazardous materials abatement, which is typical of any demolition process," he said. "At the last meeting of the county [library] board, they said they hope to have a groundbreaking for the new library on May 2."
In addition to being a state-of-the-art facility, the new 32,000-square-foot library will have a small amphitheater with a stage, walkways and green space. Construction is expected to be completed within the next two years.