Andrea Cwieka//June 13, 2016
//June 13, 2016
Havre de Grace is officially opening its new 20,000-square-feet library this Wednesday after a two-year renovation that cost almost $9 million.
The Harford County Library, now back in its previous location on Union Avenue, is twice as big as its predecessor and boasts new interactive play areas for children and teens, and a business center.
“The community in Havre de Grace has always had a close connection to the library,” said County Executive Barry Glassman in an email. “I remember fondly my own visits there as a child coming to his local library, and now this modern facility will provide opportunities for future generations.”
Schooner Cove, an 800-square-foot space for preschoolers to play, is water themed to mimic Havre de Grace’s waterfront location and is “like a little bit of Disney World in Harford County,” said Mary Hastler, the CEO of the Harford County Public Library, in a press release.
“One of the top requests [in community meetings] was an early literacy learning center,” Hastler said. “It’s an environment that really does nurture reading.”
Lafayette’s Landing, another new feature of the building, is an interactive learning area equipped with technology for older children.
“We wanted to develop something that is really unique and reflects heritage of Havre de Grace,” Hastler said. There are several different themed areas throughout the two-story library.
Another new space is the Business Center, which is geared toward small-business owners, entrepreneurs, consultants and research students and will include office technology like scanners and copiers along with tablets and computers.
“For many Havre de Grace Library users, the library is their primary source for computer and high-speed internet access,” Hastler said. At the previous Havre de Grace library, the computers “always had a waiting list.” According to library statistics, there were 2.19 computer sessions per capita in 2014, the fourth highest in the library system. The high number of users, Hastler said, was part of the reason why the library expansion was so supported by the community.
Other new offerings include an art gallery, a technology learning program for 3- to 5-year-olds, a meeting room, conference room and teen room complete with gaming systems and computers.
With all the new collaborative and communal spaces in the library, Hastler hopes it will become more integrated into the Havre de Grace community.
“I hope they’ll see this a community hub, as a resource, as a destination,” Hastler said.
Baltimore County recently embarked on a similar library renovation in October of this year. After a pipe burst at the Hereford branch, the county decided to start scheduled 2017 renovations earlier than planned and invested $3 million in the project.
“We are fortunate that Baltimore County is proceeding with the repair and renovation of the property at this critical time, and we are so excited to bring 21st century services and much-needed expanded library space to Hereford and northern Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County Public Library Director Paula Miller in a statement.
Similar to the new Havre de Grace library, the Hereford branch will be double its previous size, increase its collection size, offer more amenities (such as an art room, children’s area and meeting room) and include modern technology such as a 3-D printer. The library is scheduled to open June 14.
This integration of technology and collaborative workspaces into libraries is a growing trend, according to Hastler.
“All of the libraries have been trying to bring latest technology to the community,” Hastler said. “I like finding what hole or gap is in the community and seeing what the library can do to fill that hole or gap and provide support.”
The Havre de Grace library’s ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place June 15 at 10 a.m. The library, which was previously renovated in 2003, serves around 40,000 people in Havre de Grace, Aberdeen, Edgewood, Darlington and Churchville.
Harford County Public Library operates 11 branches. The library serves more than 181,000 registered borrowers of all ages and has an annual circulation of more than 3.8 million.P