After closing 14 months for renovations, the Glenwood Branch of the Howard County Library System will open its doors to the public again Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to be attended by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, the branch was buzzing with activity. The sound of hammering and drilling could be heard, empty bookshelves were pushed together, and vending machines stood ready to be filled.
While there was much still to be done before opening day, Tonya Aikens, president and CEO of the Howard County Library System, and Christie Lassen, director of communications, were excited to show off all that the branch would soon be ready to offer, including the library system’s only maker space, a new teen area, two new studios and an outdoor patio with seating.
“There is something for everyone,” Aikens said. “It is fantastic what we are able to deliver to the community under ... these conditions and budget constraints.”
The county’s capital budget for fiscal 2018 gave $730,000 to the Howard County Library System for Glenwood’s renovations and the system’s board of trustees provided an additional $350,000. Though the pandemic closed all library branches in March 2020, renovations were able to begin in November 2020, with numerous delays from July 2021 forward, due to supply chain issues for steel, furniture, shelving and labor.
All branches of the library system were able to start offering services, such as book loans, during the height of the pandemic. Even while closed for renovation, the Glenwood Branch still has loaned books and held programs in a community room at the front of the building.
“This is a community building,” Aikens said. “People come together across all ages, differences. Community building happens here. It is so beautiful.”
To encourage people to gather and stay, seating areas with stuffed, bright green chairs have been created. A “community living room” area near the branch’s entrance has newspapers and magazines within easy reach and a now centrally located café offers vending machines with tables and chairs. An outdoor patio was built along the back of the building to allow people to relax outside.
“I can see book discussion groups out here,” Lassen said.
A new teen area in the back of the library is surrounded by windows and features cozy booths and a selection of both board and video games to play.
“Kids can come after school,” Aikens said. “This is a free place for teens. You don’t have to be a member. They have access to all these materials.”
In the new maker space area, 3D printers, a digital memory station, a laser cutter engraver, recording booth and a large format printer are available to use, free of charge.
“This is the only public maker space in the county,” Aikens said. “Anyone can come and use these tools.”
Two new studio rooms were constructed for the library’s many programs and classes as well as for the community to use. A new office was also constructed for passport services.
“It offers more privacy,” Aikens said of the new office.
For a more open feeling, the tops of many bookshelves were removed to allow for views across the room.
“We can use these beautiful windows and the light they produce,” Aikens said, pointing out the wall of windows along the back of the building. “We always had these beautiful windows in the back but were not able to enjoy them before.”
In the children’s area, the information desk, which used to be in the center, has been reduced to a movable desk to allow space for several interactive “seed pod kiosks” and an ABC “whirligig” that are scheduled to arrive in the new year.
The children’s story barn, an original part of the library, is now a builders’ barn, with a variety of crafting materials, including paints, glue, paper and crayons.
“This is their own maker space,” Aikens said.
Like the children’s area, the branch’s main information desk was downsized and relocated. A self-service area was added, allowing patrons to pick up items they had placed on hold. The library also has new app that allows items to be checked out.
More than 400 pieces of framed artwork, including photographs, are now available to check out for three weeks at a time. Glenwood follows the Central Branch as the only ones in the system to have an art collection, Aikens said.
“From masters to contemporary and local artists,” Aikens said. “Information about the artists is included.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 10 a.m., on Saturday.
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“We are grateful for the support of the County Executive and the County Council and the board of directors,” Aikens said. “Our staff deserves kudos. They were part of this. We have very loyal customer base. I know how excited they are.”