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Library seeking to add passport services

The North Carroll library branch could be offering passport services as soon as this summer.

Carroll County Public Library's Board of Trustees approved a request last week from library director Lynn Wheeler to apply to the federal government to offer passport services at the North Carroll branch, located off Md. 30 between Manchester and Hampstead.

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Libraries in Howard and Baltimore counties have begun offering passport services and have had some success, and doing so locally would provide Carroll's library system with additional revenue, Wheeler said.

"It's been very successful in Howard County," she said. "We don't know [how successful it would be here] until we offer it, but even 30 applications a day seems like a worthy service for the community."

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East Columbia Library manager Suki Lee said her branch has been offering the service for five years and was the first in the state to do so. The branch usually processes between 40 and 60 applications during a weekday evening and is "edging up to 100 applications" on Saturdays, she said.

Arbutus Library in Baltimore County recently began offering services as well, modeling the East Columbia program, and has used social media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, to spread the word about the new service, said Erin Oh, assistant manager at the library.

Since the service began in early January, the library has processed more than 70 applications for new passports and taken more than 30 passport photos.

Library leaders in Carroll hope to use a similar approach to Arbutus in getting word out if its application is approved, Wheeler said.

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The library is only able to apply to offer the services one location at a time, but if the North Carroll experiment is successful, Wheeler said the library system would look to offer passport services in other branches in the future.

North Carroll's branch was chosen over the library's other four branches, even though the Hampstead Post Office offers passport services nearby, largely because of the traffic on Md. 30, Wheeler said.

"We considered maybe Eldersburg, but really [the North Carroll branch] is close enough to Pennsylvania and then you've got all the people coming through on the bypass," Wheeler said. "If we show a track record of success, hopefully we can expand it to other branches."

Better hours and a potentially more convenient location are other advantages the library might have over the Hampstead Post Office, she said.

Upfront costs could total about $3,000 to offer the services, Wheeler said. That includes purchasing a specific camera and a postage meter for mailing documents. There is also some staff training involved.

Some fees would be charged for the services to offset those costs and generate money for the library, Wheeler said, although she wasn't sure how much that might be.

Wheeler hopes to submit the application sometime in the coming week.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Keith Meisel contributed to this article.

Reach S. Wayne Carter Jr. at 410-857-7879 or email wayne.carter@carrollcountytimes.com.

Where to get a passport in Carroll County

Finksburg Post Office, 2999 Dede Road, Finksburg

Hampstead Post Office, 4005 Houck Avenue, Hampstead

Mount Airy Post Office, 505 Windy Knoll Drive, Mount Airy

Sykesville Post Office, 1363 Progress Way, Sykesville

Taneytown Post Office, 13 Middle Street, Taneytown

Westminster Post Office, 345 Woodward Road, Westminster

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