New East Columbia Library is expected to open in autumn EAST COLUMBIA


An article in Tuesday's Howard County edition incorrectly reported the scheduled opening of a new branch library in East Columbia. Construction on the 46,000-square-foot building is expected to be completed this fall. The library will open in early 1994.

4( The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

Despite the recent blast of winter weather, construction of the East Columbia Library is on schedule and the $8.2 million project is expected to open next fall.

The project, intended to relieve crowding at the Central Library, is about one-third complete, said Jim Wilson, the county's chief of capital construction.

"To date, it's been smooth and on schedule," he told the Owen Brown village board recently. "There should be no problems to prohibit it from being open."

Construction began in July. The 25-acre project also includes a new mini senior center and nutrition site within the library and the preparation of three new adjacent ball fields.

The 46,000-square-foot library is being built on Cradlerock Way just west of Owen Brown Middle School and Dasher Green Elementary School. It will be about the same size as Central Library, but contained on one floor instead of two, and will be about twice the size of the Elkridge branch, which has not opened yet.

Dr. Dorothy Hersi, a member of the Owen Brown village board, said area residents are very excited about having a new library, especially because of its proximity to schools and senior citizen housing.

"The Central Library really is in a crush with parking and long lines at check-out," she said. "This should alleviate a lot of overcrowding and attract a lot of people throughout the county."

At its meeting with Mr. Wilson, the village board expressed some concern about an increase in traffic on Cradlerock Way and congestion near the schools and library. A traffic light is not planned for library access.

County library administrative offices, which now are in the Central Library on Little Patuxent Parkway and the Miller Library in Ellicott City, will be consolidated in the East Columbia Library, said Marvin Thomas, county library director.

The Central Library, which will remain the central "reference hub" of the library system, needs more space for public use, he said.

When the administrative offices are relocated, the Central Library will be renovated, said Mr. Thomas.

"Our aim is to have a more up-to-date electronic plant so we can continue our technological growth," he said.

The branch libraries will be connected to the Central Library's main computer system, allowing patrons to access a wide range of information.

At a March 3 budget hearing, County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he intends to include money for the East Columbia and Elkridge libraries in the fiscal 1994 operating budget, which begins July 1. Residents of those areas have expressed concern that the library would not be staffed in the coming fiscal year.

Mr. Thomas said that he's hoping the East Columbia Library will be open to the public by early 1994. Library officials will need several months to prepare the library after construction is completed. The opening date also hinges upon allocations in the 1993-'94 budget, he said.

The East Columbia Library will feature a "curtain wall" -- a tall glass wall supported by an exposed frame -- and will have more than 400 parking spaces.

The new nutrition site in the mini senior center will help alleviate crowding at Owen Brown Place, a nearby senior citizen apartment house, said Manus O'Donnell, director of the county's Department of Citizen Services.

A new senior citizen housing development is planned for Owen Brown village, which will increase demand for services, he said.

The Owen Brown Place nutrition site will serve the frail elderly, while the library site will serve the "well" elderly, said Mr. O'Donnell. The library senior center also will have space for crafts, leisure activities, classes and counseling, he said.

An Elkridge nutrition site will be transferred from Unity Baptist Church to the Elkridge Library when that branch opens, said Mr. O'Donnell.

The new athletic fields for sports such as soccer, football and lacrosse are projected to be ready by spring 1994, said Jeffrey Bourne, county Department of Recreation and Parks director.

The fields will be booked through that office for most prime times, he said.

The fields should provide an outlet for community groups that place heavy demands on the fields at the neighboring school site, said Mr. Bourne.

The fields also will be used as replacements when other fields throughout the county are closed for renovations.

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