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Community meetings planned on future of Aberdeen, Darlington libraries

Community meetings planned on future of Aberdeen, Darlington libraries
A community meeting will be held Aug. 11 to discuss future plans to expand the Aberdeen Library. (TED HENDRICKS | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Community meetings seeking ideas and input from the public are planned in August as part of feasibility studies to determine the need for expansion and reconstruction of the Aberdeen and Darlington branches of the Harford County Public Library.

The Aberdeen meeting will be Monday, Aug. 11, at 6:30 p.m. at the Aberdeen library, 21 Franklin St.

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The Darlington meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company, 2600 Castleton Road.

The meetings will be led by project consultants from Morris & Ritchie Associates Inc. of Abingdon. The library began the feasibility study in late spring as part of the overall county facilities plan, Library Director Mary Hastler said.

The meetings, she said, "will give people an opportunity to tell us how they use the libraries now and what they might like to see in the future."

"We like to get a lot of thoughts from people," Hastler said. "It's their library."

According to the Harford County capital budget for the 2015 fiscal year, both library projects are being considered for the period 2016-20.

Hastler said the Aberdeen library, one of the system's busiest, is in need of expansion and will probably be enlarged on the existing site.

The Darlington library is in a modular building. Hastler said library system leaders are trying to determine what would be an appropriate size for a permanent library in the community, as well as potential new locations.

"It's not an ideal location," she said of the current site. "The parking is actually in the driveway for people living behind the building. It's an awkward space."

According to Harford County's approved capital budget for 2015, the Aberdeen project has a projected cost of $12 million, although only $56,000 has been appropriated to date for feasibility and design.

"Customer demands are exceeding its capacity due to its close proximity to APG and the impact of BRAC," the budget states. "Harford County Public Library desires to expand this facility by 5,000 square feet, add a science learning center of 2,500 square feet geared to elementary and middle school students and increase parking resources"

The budget also states the goal of the science center will be "to nurture the scientific interests of young children to complement the STEM [science, technology, mathematics] initiatives being undertaken" in the public schools and the local business community.

The budget also states the expanded Aberdeen branch would house an early literacy and learning center.

According to the library director's annual report for the 2014 fiscal year, the Aberdeen library circulated 357,000 materials, third most in the 11-branch system behind the Bel Air and Abingdon libraries. During June, there were 26,658 walk-in visits at Aberdeen, also third behind Abingdon and Bel Air, with 28,200 and 41, 263 visits, respectively.

The Darlington library has the system's smallest circulation, 37,904 materials in 2014, according to the report. The were 1,902 visits to the branch in June.

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