Finksburg residents offer to raise funds to construct satellite library; Plan says branch needed, requests that county pay annual operating costs

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Finksburg residents who want a satellite library branch in their community are offering to raise money to build it, if the county commissioners will commit the annual operating money.

The residents are joined by businessman Robert W. Fischer, who owns the Finksburg Plaza shopping center at Routes 140 and 91 and has offered to help find a way to raise money for a building.

Fischer said he was impressed with the proposal by the Finksburg residents, organized by Laura O'Callaghan.

"We think it's needed," Fischer said of a Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library. "But to go through the process with the county would take a long time."

A capital budget request to the county often takes five to six years, and would have to get in line behind other projects, said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

But if residents and the business community can raise money to build the branch, the county would certainly consider providing the operating expenses, estimated by library administrators to be at least $125,000 a year, not counting books and computers.

"Certainly you can't turn a deaf ear to a proposal like that," Dell said.

He said it is unlikely the county would provide operating expenses in the fiscal 2000 budget, but that it is possible in future years.

However, Dell said he wanted to hear reports on the viability of libraries in five to 10 years. With increasing use of computers, he wondered, would people travel to a library less?

Fischer said he helped Littlestown, Pa., residents build a YMCA by providing a lot. Contractors and tradespeople offered their services to build a home, which was auctioned off, raising about $90,000, he said.

O'Callaghan, a resident active in the Finksburg Planning Area Council, presented the commissioners Thursday with a proposal packed with statistics that support the need for a branch.

"It takes 25 to 40 minutes to reach any of the county's libraries," O'Callaghan said.

Some Finksburg residents use the Reisterstown branch of the Baltimore County Public Library.

O'Callaghan used 1990 census figures to show the size of the average household in Finksburg has grown larger than the county average -- an average of three members, compared with 2.85 countywide.

In February, she proposed the idea of raising money for a branch to the library's board, which agreed with the apparent need but must rely on the commissioners for money.

The library has five locations: Westminster, Eldersburg, North Carroll, Taneytown and Mount Airy.

The Finksburg area has almost 8,000 residents, she said, more than either Mount Airy or Taneytown, which have populations of about 5,000. Counting the surrounding communities of Sandymount and Patapsco, the Finksburg area has an estimated 17,000 residents, O'Callaghan wrote in her report to the commissioners.

Linda Mielke, the library's executive director, said at the February board meeting that in 1994 the board's long-range plan called for a library in Finksburg, an idea that was killed for lack of resources.

"We think Finksburg is an area that has very few services," said O'Callaghan, noting residents would prefer a full-service branch but would be happy with a satellite location. "This is a modest request that we think is a reasonable one."

O'Callaghan, whose husband, Dave, is president of the Finksburg planning council, has lived in the area for 10 years. They have 3-year-old twins. She said the family would use a library more frequently if one were nearer.

Sun staff writer Kristine Henry contributed to this article.

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