$1 million would help Eldersburg library branch out


Eldersburg library, the county's second-busiest branch, soon could undergo a $1 million expansion.

The library, which has a circulation of about 900,000 items annually and is second only to the Westminster branch in size and operation, would add 2,500 square feet. The renovation would double the size of the community room, enlarge the children's department, increase the number of parking spaces, add a drive-through window and rework the entrance and circulation desk.

The improvements could enable the library to keep pace with demand through the next two decades, library officials said in a meeting with the commissioners yesterday.

"If this will do it for 20 years, this is not a bad option," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich, who was ready to approve the project yesterday. "The alternatives are way more expensive. We should get going on this."

Carroll regularly is listed as one of the state's busiest library systems with a circulation of more than 2 million items annually.

The county plans a 10,000-square-foot branch in Finksburg and an adjoining headquarters that could cost $3.5 million. The complex is expected to open in 2005, although the county has yet to settle on a building site.

"We are looking at changes that would make the second-busiest library better and more usable," said Ted Zaleski, county director of management and budget. "Assuming that the Finksburg branch happens and Westminster loses some of its traffic to it, Eldersburg will become the biggest library. We should move ahead with making it more usable."

The extra $400,000

The 20-year-old Eldersburg library building was scheduled for $600,000 in renovations two years ago. The project was designed but did not go out to bid. The delay, coupled with recently enacted and more stringent building codes and a few improvements, added $400,000 to the project.

"While $1 million sounds crazy for 2,500 square feet, we want this building to be as usable as possible," Zaleski said.

The cost increase is considerable, but the work should be done, he said, adding that he was fairly certain a review of pending capital projects would locate funding that could be transferred to the project.

The commissioners said yesterday that they favor the project, if they can find $400,000 in the budget for next year.

"We have already approved $600,000 and Ted will find the rest," said Minnich. "I don't want to put this off and discuss it for six months."

Linda Mielke, county library director, said she will not add staff, shelves or equipment to the building which, when renovated, will be nearly 28,000 square feet.

'A big difference'

"Our users will see a big difference," Mielke said. "I get complaints all the time that the meeting room is too small, that the parking is inadequate and that the building is inefficient. When this is all done, Eldersburg will be our busiest branch."

If the project survives the commissioners' budget review, the bidding process would take about 90 days. Construction, which would be done in phases so that the building could continue to operate, would take about a year.

"I know this is expensive but this is a 20-year-old building that needs refurbishing," Mielke said. "My sense is that the commissioners want to see this done now because the costs keep going up. And because South Carroll will continue to grow."

South Carroll, which includes Eldersburg and Sykesville, is the county's most populous and fastest-growing area with more than 30,000 residents.

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