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Library setting goals for upgrade Board of trustees uses projections of county growth hTC


Success in extending services and upgrading technology at Carroll County Public Library is best understood by reviewing their six-year master plan for capital improvements and projected operating costs, library officials say.

The board of trustees for Carroll County Public Library has done its homework, using county planning and development growth projections to establish priorities and prepare a budget plan that will seek $6.3 million in capital improvements through fiscal 2005.

During the same span, the board wants to hold operational costs to 3 percent annually, meaning the current fiscal-year costs of $4.7 million would climb to $5.4 million by 2005.

"We'll know where we stand in the spring, after our plan goes through the budget process," Linda Mielke, library director, said recently.

Mielke, who took over as director five years ago, said the county commissioners have treated the library favorably, despite slashing increases for operational expenses to 2 percent or less in three of the past four fiscal years.

The board's six-year plan includes expanding branches in Eldersburg, Westminster and Taneytown, and renovations at Carroll Community College to enable relocating library headquarters from the leased facility at Westminster Airpark.

Countywide expenditures include upgrading 70 computer terminals and dot matrix printers that are 7 to 15 years old, systematically replacing all computer equipment, networking devices and copiers, and refurbishing furniture and shelving at the Westminster branch.

"Our technological projects are really the second phase of our Library Automation Plan," said Scott Reinhart, assistant director. Scheduling replacement of all computer equipment is a proactive approach, rather than waiting until something breaks down and creates a bigger problem."

Reinhart noted that catalog terminals used by the public in the county's library branches do not use Windows software, which he finds amazing because the county's public library provides Internet service and has helped bring every county school online.

"We are averaging 80,000 to 90,000 'hits' on our Web page every day," said Reinhart, acknowledging that many of those "hits" come from students seeking information for classroom reports.

Technology aside, the county library circulates more books per person than any library in the state, Mielke said. About 78 percent of all county residents have a library card, she said.

In fiscal 1998, 2.97 million items -- books and materials -- were checked out of county libraries, she added.

For statistical purposes, Reinhart said library patrons are defined as those who have used their library cards at least once within the past 18 months.

The library has been such a valuable and successful resource in Carroll County because branches are "accessible and we have what the public wants," Mielke said.

It's the board's policy that books and materials are items "never to be cut, only added to," she said. "We capture our patrons at the kindergarten level and try to keep them for life."

Mielke said planned capital improvement projects seek to add 5,000 square feet of library space in Eldersburg in fiscal 2001, 13,000 square feet in Westminster by renovating the virtually unused basement level of that branch in fiscal 2003, and 5,000 square feet in Taneytown in fiscal 2005.

Taneytown has the county's smallest branch -- 9,800 square feet -- but county planners project a 55 percent population growth to more than 27,000 by 2020, Mielke said.

The board's plans are not inflexible, but obtaining funds remains the primary key for success, she said.

"If the money is not available, we'll manage, but it won't be easy," Mielke said.

If the board's budget requests are slashed, layoffs and shorter operational hours would be options, "but not pleasant ones," she said.

Pub Date: 12/24/98

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