Meg Rapp is eager for the new Crofton branch of the Anne Arundel County Public Library to open near her house. All summer her daughter had to drive about 12 miles to the Severna Park branch to complete summer reading requirements for high school.
When the facility on Riedel Road opens Saturday, it will be just a few blocks from the Rapps' house and include about 140,000 books, CDs, tapes and videos, nearly 41,000 of which are new.
"It's finally nice they're catching up with what Crofton's needs are," Rapp said. "My daughter relies on the public library for doing papers."
The $7.5 million, 25,000- square-foot building is the county's largest public library, although a larger one is scheduled to open in the western part of the county in 2004, said Andrea D. Lewis, the library system's spokeswoman.
The Annapolis, Severna Park and North County branch libraries are all smaller than 21,000 square feet, she said.
The new building is a major improvement over the previous Crofton branch library, which was in a shopping center.
"It was kind of archaic," Rapp said. Library officials agree the old library branch was too small for Crofton's population, which grew from 12,781 in 1990 to 20,091 in 2000, according to U.S. census data. Circulation at the library grew from about 44,000 items checked out monthly in the mid-1990s to nearly 53,000 monthly last year, Lewis said.
The increasing presence of technology also contributed to the old library's crowded feel.
"When the library first opened in the 1970s, we didn't have computers," said Ruby Jaby, Crofton branch library manager. "When we brought in the computers, it took up the open space the library had."
With few windows, it also was too dark, Jaby said.
The new library will offer a more comfortable space to browse, read and congregate. The high ceilings, which slope up to nearly 30 feet, give the place a spacious feel. Skylights and windows as tall as 14 feet provide ample natural light. It also will offer conference and meeting rooms for nonprofit groups.
At 1681 Riedel Road, the library will be open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.