Rosedale library branch gets ready for makeover

The Baltimore Sun

Judy Kaplan sounds like a chef about to get a new gourmet kitchen.

With a $1 million-plus makeover, the Rosedale library branch will have the equivalent of Viking appliances and granite countertops -- rows and rows of shelves, plush furniture for reading, enclosed quiet spaces for studying and a museum-quality children's literacy center called Storyville.

"I'm so excited about what the new library will look like," says Kaplan, manager of the branch on Kenwood Avenue, as she walks over soiled and faded gray carpets and past half-empty shelves. "It will be so cheery. We're so out of date."

The $426,000 renovation of the main library wing is expected to be complete at the end of October. The work will force the branch to close for a single day -- next Thursday.

The $600,000 Storyville project -- an elaborate kind of playland designed to foster early reading -- could be completed as early as January, according to county library system officials.

The cosmetic improvements at Rosedale also will include the exterior.

The concrete fa?ade will be redone in terra cotta and putty-colored hues, library officials say. But as anyone who has renovated a kitchen or bathroom knows, the construction period could be a little uncomfortable, Kaplan says.

Staffers are boxing up much of the library's collection of 63,226 books and other materials. Many desks and other furniture also will be moved to large storage trailers.

The more popular and essential materials and all of the branch's DVDs and CDs will be readily available, Kaplan says.

Twelve of the 14 computers at the branch will be accessible in the "mini" library in the wing that is home to the children's collections and the future home of Storyville. The scaled-down facility will remain fully staffed with 12 full-time and 16 part-time librarians, Kaplan says.

The 20,000-square-foot Rosedale library branch -- a modern building with triangular ceilings -- opened in 1974 and looks it.

While other branches have bookstore display shelves and cafes, Rosedale's beige shelves and paint are dated.

"I've been going to this library since I was a kid," says Bryon McDonald, 23, a Perry Hall native now working at the library part time. "This was our second library. This is where we came when White Marsh didn't have what we needed."

300,000 patrons

More than 300,000 patrons used the Rosedale branch last year, according to library data. The busiest branch, in Cockeysville, received about 559,426 visitors last year.

However, others prefer the slower pace.

Annette Wood, a stay-at-home mother from Rosedale, says the librarians are quick to provide useful materials, and she likes that her 5-year-old daughter doesn't often have to wait to use a computer.

"It's very personable here," says Wood, who has been bringing her daughter to the branch since she was 6 months old.

Wood says she's excited about Storyville.

Designed by architect James Bradberry, Storyville will have play areas, including one being called a "baby garden," with peek-a-boo windows, textured toys, spinning flowers and crawl space for babies.

A Maryland-themed "toddler bay" is to include a driftwood tunnel, tidal pool, stacking and sorting toys, and rocks to climb, according to the plans.

The early-literacy center -- a first for Baltimore County -- will have a construction site with building blocks, a play store, puppet theater and a playhouse, with -- of course -- books. The area might remind parents of Port Discovery Museum or the children's section at the Maryland Science Center.

But the play activities are being introduced to build the fundamentals of reading -- for example, matching shapes will later help children to identify letters, says Kaplan.

In Storyville

Storyville is designed for infants through 6-year-olds, giving them a place to play alongside adult caregivers.

Staffers will help parents and guardians interact with their children to encourage them to develop their literacy skills, Kaplan says. Putting on a puppet show, for example, might help children learn narrative and sequencing skills, the branch manager says.

Hands-on features -- a working phone, a magnetic fish "pond" -- are being added "to make it magical," Kaplan says.

"There won't be another library like it," says Wood.

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