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Water damage at Hereford branch spurs county to start library's renovation

Almost two months after water poured into Hereford Library from a burst pipe and closed it down, Baltimore County has started pouring $3 million into expanding and renovating the building. Construction has already begun and is expected to be completed sometime next spring.

The library opened in 1988 in rented space on the bottom floor of a two-story building on York Road. The county bought the building in October 2013 and scheduled it for renovation once the tenants in the second-floor offices had left. The proposed construction was set for 2017, but the flood moved those plans up.

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There was only one tenant — Hereford Eye Care Associates — on the second floor when a pipe in an adjacent office burst.

Historian and toymaker Michael Brown demonstrates how to make traditional wooden toys.

"We are turning a disaster into an opportunity," said Paula Miller, Baltimore County Public Library director. "When the new library opens, we hope the community will see a welcoming, gracious space where they'll want to linger. It will be a very vibrant place."

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Miller and assistant director James Cooke visited Hereford on July 26, the day of the flood, to see the damage. To reopen, the library would have needed new shelving, carpet, ceiling tiles and insulation, she said. It didn't take long before both library and county officials were talking about giving the library a permanent fix.

"Why would we want to go in and spend a significant amount of money and in essence undo it in the future?" said 3rd District Councilman Wade Kach. "I do appreciate the fact that Kevin Kamenetz was listening. The area needed a bigger library and now it's getting one."

County Executive Kamenetz agreed. "This library is a very important resource for our county residents up north and this new and improved library will offer expanded service for everyone in the community sooner than anticipated."

Hereford's branch manager, Abby Cooley, said the numbers prove how much the Hereford Zone loves its library.

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Circulation assistant Amanda Lotz, right, helps Susan Ingram, of Randallstown, check out some movies from the bookmobile parked near the Hereford branch to serve library patrons during the branch's ongoing renovation.
Circulation assistant Amanda Lotz, right, helps Susan Ingram, of Randallstown, check out some movies from the bookmobile parked near the Hereford branch to serve library patrons during the branch's ongoing renovation. (Jen Rynda / Staff Photo by Jen Rynda)

From July 2014 to June 2015, some 287,639 items were checked in or out and the door count was 101,937 visitors. A total of 5,552 people attended 242 programs for children, teens and adults.

Brand new look

There isn't much of the library building that will look the same. A new front entrance will face York Road and cars will drive a one-way loop around the building. The space has doubled from the original 7,500 square-feet to 15,000.

The first floor will have a children's area with child-sized computers and interactive games. The most current materials — books, CDs, movies — will be shelved on the first floor.

There will be a study room and a periodical room where customers can read in peace and quiet.

A service desk with two self-checkout computers also will be on the first floor.

An interior elevator and a staircase will take customers to the second floor where 10 computers for public use will be located. The whole building will have plenty of outlets for folks to plug in their own computers, too. The library shelves will be filled with general fiction and nonfiction.

A large meeting room that holds 80 people will be on the second floor, as well as a teen area with its own furniture and both teen and young adult materials.

Hereford Library hosts Artbots program presented by FutureMakers in which pre-teens make mini-moving machines that make art automatically.

Perhaps the most specialized room will be the second-floor art room, Cooke said. It will have a 3-D printer and will be used for art classes and programs.

Library director Miller called it a Center of Excellence and said each library will eventually get to choose its own center that matches its community. She said Hereford is known for its creativity and artistic interest.

"This new library is going to be a real showcase," said Laura Pawlak, president of the Friends of the Hereford Library. "It will continue to be a real resource for the whole community."

Making do

Pawlak said that many of the Friends-sponsored activities are on hold until next spring, but they continue to hold monthly book club discussions. The group meets the first Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m. on the second floor of Summit Manor, behind the Hereford Volunteer Fire Company. The bookmobile, on the library parking lot until the new building opens, will have a list of each month's book, she said.

The bookmobile is now at the library from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; from noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday; and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There is a drop box at the front of the library building so people can return materials even when the bookmobile is closed. Hereford's assistant manager, Samantha O'Heren, said from 100 to 130 people visit the bookmobile each day. Many of its shelves are filled with books that customers have requested from other branches.

"We try to have a little bit of everything on the bookmobile to pick from, but we can have anything sent here," she said. She said materials can be put on hold online or by calling any library branch.

Pretzel the python a big part of Reptile Wonder show

Recently, Susan Ingram stopped by for some DVDs to watch on a rainy weekend.

"I love this library, but the bookmobile will have to do until it reopens," she said while checking out.

The bookmobile and library staff will be at the upcoming Hereford Fall Festival on Oct. 17 and 18 to share the new library plans. The festival is at 200 Mt. Carmel Road, in the field next to Graul's shopping center. Interested community groups can also request someone from the library to give a presentation about the plans for a new and improved Hereford library branch.

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