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Carroll County Public Library’s Exploration Commons in Westminster expected to open in June

The Carroll County Public Library expects its new community space in Westminster, Exploration Commons at 50 East, to be open to the public in June.

The $4.9 million project, will transform the basement of the Westminster branch library into a makerspace with a professional teaching kitchen and other collaborative work spaces and meeting rooms.

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The new space is being developed to provide access to technology to underserved populations and to individuals who would not normally have access to technology-focused opportunities.

This rendering shows the outside of Exploration Commons at 50 East, a 14,000-square-foot interactive community space that is planned to open in the lower level of the Westminster library in 2021.
This rendering shows the outside of Exploration Commons at 50 East, a 14,000-square-foot interactive community space that is planned to open in the lower level of the Westminster library in 2021. (Courtesy photo / BSMG)

Construction is expected to be completed by mid-April, giving the library a month and a half to get staff in place. Hiring was completed in January with seven new employees undergoing training for the June opening.

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Bob Kuntz, director of operations and innovation with Carroll County Public Library, said during the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Thursday that the project is halfway through construction, with much of the internal construction now completed.

The project had faced some delays due to weather and COVID-related delivery issues, he said.

Carroll County Public Library executive director Andrea Berstler points out parts of the Exploration Commons under construction during a tour of the site underneath the newly rededicated Westminster branch following a dedication ceremony Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.
Carroll County Public Library executive director Andrea Berstler points out parts of the Exploration Commons under construction during a tour of the site underneath the newly rededicated Westminster branch following a dedication ceremony Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Kuntz hopes the new space will help county residents and other customers gain new technical skills.

“That’s really what this space is about, it’s about programming, it’s about training people to use the equipment so they can continue with their hobbies or join the workforce or learn a new career,” Kuntz said.

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Kuntz said staff has started to create programming and procedures for the makerspace and the teaching kitchen and are also in the process of learning the equipment and software that will be provided to the customers in the space.

The Exploration Commons staff is also being trained so the space’s new programs can be used virtually as well as in-person.

“We really don’t know where we’re going to be at in June yet so we want our programming to be able to be accessed in multiple ways,” Kuntz said.

Tony Eckard, Carroll County Public Library’s director of finance and analysis, said a campaign is being planned to raise funding from the general public for the remaining amount needed for the project.

Currently the library has 70% of the funds needed for the project. The county has contributed $600,000 in funding to the project and another $1.9 million has been funded through a state capital project program for libraries.

Private donations accounted for almost $716,000 including a donation of $200,000 from the Davis Library Inc, with 145 private donors and organizations accounting for the remainder of the private funds.

“So far, much of the effort has been with major donors and grantors,” Eckard said. “So this final campaign will be for the stretch run, for the rest of the way.”

The remaining funds needed will be drawn from a $1.5 million loan made to CCPL by the county.

Carroll County Public Library executive director Andrea Berstler speaks during a rededication ceremony introducing the Exploration Commons at the Westminster branch Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.
Carroll County Public Library executive director Andrea Berstler speaks during a rededication ceremony introducing the Exploration Commons at the Westminster branch Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)
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