Library system is 'building for the future' in West County


The newest library in Anne Arundel County has only been open for a few days, and already Diane Kenyon is hooked.

"It's amazing how large this place is," said the 31-year-old mother of two at Wednesday's opening of the West County Area Library, a $13.5 million facility that boasts a collection of 165,000 volumes.

At the now-closed Odenton branch, "We would check out the same book over and over," Kenyon said of her children, Austin, 5, and Tyler, 3. Austin - a big fan of dinosaurs - had 10 books on the subject to choose from at the old branch.

But with his mother's help Wednesday, he found at least 40 at the new library.

The branch's opening - two years after the construction of the 25,000-square-foot Crofton Area branch at a cost of $7.5 million - means that the West County now boasts the two newest and best-equipped libraries in the county.

The tilt in library resources toward West County reflects that "we are the fastest-growing area in the county - they are going where the people are," said Torrey C. Jacobsen Jr., president of the Greater Crofton Council, an association of area community interests.

"It proves that the library system is building for the future."

The new facility in Odenton, at routes 170 and 175, outstrips its predecessor in almost every way: It's more than four times larger, holds three times as many items and offers four times as many computer workstations.

With all the added resources, the schedule for this branch has expanded from six days a week to seven.

The expanded West County facility gives residents another library option, said Steve Grimaud, president of the Crofton Civic Council, which represents more than 3,000 homeowners in Crofton.

The new library "recognizes that the area has grown significantly in the last 20 years," he said.

The added space allowed for a 4,500-square-foot children's area with colorful carpet and shelves of books. It also includes a play area and a dozen computer stations set aside for families.

The facility is the only two-floor branch among the 15 run by the county, with the top floor holding the adult materials, including two quiet rooms and a separate computer lab.

The children's area is located just off the main checkout area on the first floor.

The size of the branch accommodates the growing inventory of items that libraries offer, such as DVDs, recorded books and computer labs, while giving its patrons room to enjoy them, said branch manager Cathy Butler.

"We offer people a state-of-the-art facility and give them the room to appreciate it," said Laurie L. Hayes, spokeswoman for the county public library system.

One of the high-tech aspects of the library is a computerized reservation system that allows patrons to sign up for computer access.

An electronic board notifies them when their turn has come and what computer they will use. That feature will be incorporated into all other branches by the end of 2005, Hayes said.

Another potential timesaver, located at the opposite of the checkout area, is the automated checkout machines.

These high-tech features will free up the staff to help patrons in other ways, Butler said.

"We're trying to make our patrons happier," she said.

County library officials and County Executive Janet S. Owens kicked off the branch's grand opening yesterday with the help of performances from singers and other entertainment groups.

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