Buddy Butt, 87, grew potatoes on the farm where Baltimore County's newest library stands today.
"I am glad to see the spot is staying productive," he said, after joining more than a dozen officials Monday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the $7.25 million Perry Hall library branch.
The lifelong Perry Hall resident helped build the neighborhood's first library on Belair Road in 1963, and for years he organized and emceed talent shows to raise money for books.
Always the farmer, Butt brought a basket of fruit to the official opening of the environmentally friendly building on Honeygo Boulevard, the county's first new library in 21 years.
The 25,000-square-foot, one-level building houses more than $1.1 million in 75,000 new items, in addition to the collection of 50,000 books, periodicals, videos and other materials relocated from the shuttered smaller branch. The Perry Hall library also features the first drive-up window in the county's 17-branch system.
Visitors will have access to 37 computers, writing desks and 152 seats throughout the building, which is surrounded by 150 parking spaces, with preferred spots for low-emission vehicles.
Natural light filters through expansive windows into rooms for adult reading, group study, teen activities and community meetings. A 3,200-square-foot children's area offers thousands of books and a playroom.
Ellen Montoya chose the floor over numerous comfortable seats and leaned against a shelf as she read to her 3-year-old son Adrian. "We used to always go to the old one," Montoya said. "I am shocked at the size of this one. We will absolutely be back a lot."
Eight days after the library opened on March 9, its circulation surpassed that for all of March last year, officials said.
Libraries throughout Baltimore County are experiencing a surge in borrowing, with the system on target to reach 10 million in circulation - the most in the metropolitan area - when the fiscal year ends June 30, officials said.
"There has always been high usage, but the current economy is driving circulation to extremely high record numbers," said Robert W. Hughes, a library spokesman.
Butt will be among the thousands visiting the Perry Hall branch.
As he writes - by hand - his autobiography, he will be researching many of the library's resources. "I will be back for a book signing, before I am through," he said.