Arbutus Library to focus on teens in its second year

Circulating nearly a half million materials and welcoming more than 200,000 visitors in less than a year deserves some sort of celebration.

And that's why the Arbutus Library, at 855 Sulphur Spring Road, will offer cake to visitors at 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Aug. 24 to mark the one-year anniversary of the branch's official ribbon cutting last summer.

Other than the dessert, branch director Gail Ross said the celebration will be muted.

"We're keeping it low key because it's just the one year," said Ross on marking the anniversary of the library in its fifth home since 1947.

In just one year, though, Ross said the library has drawn more than 210,000 visitors and circulated nearly 500,000 materials, mainly books, magazines, movies and music.

"We had a great year," said Ross, who noted that in July, the library attracted more than 46,000 people, better than any month at its previous location in an industrial park at 1581 Sulphur Spring Road.

Refusing to rest on its laurels, the 25,000-square-foot library off Selford Road has a new goal to capitalize on a surprising trend in its second year — attracting more teens.

"Teenagers were that new element," Ross said about why the library will focus on that group. "In the old building, we were not in a neighborhood. We didn't see the kids as often.

"Now, every day after school, we have kids in our teen area."

The Teen Zone, Ross said, has materials such as graphic novels and magazines, that appeal to teenagers, a bank of six computers and furniture for them to relax as they interact with friends.

This fall, the library will add a Nintendo Wii and an Xbox 360 for teens to play after school, Ross said.

Ross and her staff have talked to the staff at the Catonsville Library about having an open mic night, which Catonsville has found to be a hit.

At the end of September, the Arbutus branch will host its first open mic night where teenagers can show off their talents.

"Whatever it is that they do, that is perfect for a group," said Ross, who noted the event will take place each Monday at 7 p.m. "It's an opportunity for creativity, and for your friends and family to come watch you perform."

The walkability of the new location, Ross said, may be key to drawing students from Arbutus Middle School, which at 5525 Shelbourne Road is only about a half-mile away.

The young library is attracting people from farther away, too.

Nicole Spicer, 14, said she has come to the Arbutus Library several times a week for years, even though there are closer options for the Baltimore resident.

"It's a very good place to go to relax, where you can go to read a book or do something that helps you relax," Nicole said. "It's a whole lot bigger (than the old library) and they have a little café there where they have vending machines."

Spicer, who will begin her freshman year at Dunbar High School this fall, also noted the Teen Zone has a wider selection of books and magazines than the old library.

Kimberly Mendez, 13, takes a 10-minute car ride to the Arbutus Library even though she lives closer to the Catonsville branch on Frederick Road.

The Catonsville resident has spent much of her summer vacation racking up the service hours required by the school system by volunteering at the library.

She said she works with the Summer Reading Club for about 10 hours each week and that it's not unusual for her to come in before her shift starts, just so she can hang out.

"I usually spend my time in the Teen Zone," Kimberly said. "I meet new people, and I study there.

"It's just nice to be there," said Kimberly, who will start her eighth-grade year at Catonsville Middle School on Aug. 29. "There's not a lot of noise, like it should be.

"I like that library."

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