Eighteen-month-old Emilia Custis pointed at all the books in the newly renovated Abingdon Library Tuesday morning.
“She’s saying book, book, book. Whatever book she points at I put in the bag,” her mother, Kayla Custis, said at the grand re-opening of the branch, which had been closed for seven months for a $2.9 million renovation.
Emilia was also checking out the tablets anchored to small tables covered in different color handprints. She led a bird along its journey on the tablet.
The Custises are new to the area and Kayla, who worked at the Perry Hall Library when they lived there, was disappointed the Abingdon branch was closed, so they’re excited about its reopening.
“It’s beautiful, so close to our house. We’ll be here a lot,” Custis said.
The library closed in March for the renovation that was expected to last through mid-August but replacing the windows — which were leaking since the library opened and the catalyst behind the project — took longer than expected, Harford County Public Library CEO Mary Hastler said earlier this year.
Partial funding for the project was provided by the County Library Capital Grant Program, Maryland State Library, Harford County Government, Harford County Public Library Board of Trustees, Harford County Public Library Foundation, Friends of the Abingdon Library and Beyond Limits Autism Board.
“It’s always good when the library re-opens,” Hastler said before the re-opening ceremony.
She thanked the community — “you were very, very patient,” she said.
The renovated library, the second-busiest branch in Harford behind Bel Air, feels much larger, with lots of flexible open space, Hastler said. And everything is on wheels.
The branch has the first children’s sensory room in the county to provide stimulation and relaxation through touch, light and sound, she said.
Children filled the 330-square-foot sensory room Tuesday, exploring the tactile texture panel, the nano tile (colors activated by sound), the mirror ball and the bubble tubes. They used the main control to change the light colors on the tubes, the fiber optic light sprays and other lights.
A projector displayed different interactive apps like kids yoga or hanging with monkeys in the trees.
The room was open to everyone Tuesday, but will be by appointment only beginning next week. One family at a time will be able to explore the room for 45 minutes. Open houses will be held once a week for patrons to learn about the room.
The library has more materials — a total of 67,000 items in its collection — than it did before it closed.
Besides the windows, the library has a partial new roof, new carpet, new shelving, new LED lighting and ceiling tiles, a fresh coat of paint, additional electric and data lines for computers and a conference room with smart TV technology.
“I love the light. It’s so light, so bright, the colors are great,” Branch Manager Lisa Mittman, who remained at the branch during construction, said.
Thirty-seven to 40 people work at the branch and many will be walking around helping customers.
“We’re really excited to be back with the community,” Mittman said. “The community is very excited, too.”
Students at the nearby Emmorton Elementary are happy to have their library open again and cheered when they heard the news. They walk from the school to the branch every few weeks as part of their English class and many walk to the library after school to either meet parents or participate in one the branch’s programs, said Katherine Dorsey, the vocal music director at the school.
The fifth-grade chorus sang as part of the re-opening ceremony Tuesday.
“There is so much we can do here. It’s just amazing to have it here,” Dorsey said. “In these places we can imagine all kinds of things that are found in books.”
Suzanne Oshinsky was visiting the branch for its reopening and her daughter sang with the chorus.
“We’re excited to have it, something so close by,” Oshinsky said.
She expects her 12-year-old son, who is on the autism spectrum, will enjoy the sensory room.
“He likes to touch, feel,” she said.
He also likes technology and is looking forward to working in the innovation lab as well as checking out books. While he’s a “techie,” Oshinsky said, he is much more apt to read an entire book if he has a physical copy and isn’t reading it online.
Tina Kiebler was reading a book about monkeys to 2-year-old Emma Greeley, with 3-month-old Drew Greeley in a baby carrier on her chest.
Kiebler, who is Emma’s and Drew’s nanny, brought Emma to the library until it closed.
“Now we will come back here,” Kiebler said.
So far, Emma had liked the sensory room and the books.
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“Yes, I like books,” she said.