Volume 14, Issue 45 ~ November 9 - November 15, 2006

Finding Calvert County Library’s New Home

Fifty thousand books made the move; So can you

by Helena Mann-Melnitchenko

The new library’s designer incorporated distinctive themes from Calvert County: the tobacco barn, the silo and the lighthouse.

How do you move 50,000 books and 5,000 movies, books on tape, music discs and DVDs? With very good planning.

After three decades, Calvert County’s main library in Prince Frederick has moved from its Duke Street location. The library was out of circulation for less than a month.

Early in October, the old Duke Street library stopped lending. The new library started lending on October 31. Though Calvert’s main library has moved out of downtown Prince Frederick, it’s easy to find across Route 4 from Calvert Memorial Hospital. The address is 850 Costley Way, named for Russell Costley, trustee and Friend of the Library for more than 20 years.

Through October, the staff packed on Duke Street and prepared on Costley Way. Then Office Movers — a mid-Atlantic specialist in big jobs — came in. In three and a half days, they transferred the whole lot.

“They moved the books on big carts,” said Patricia Hofmann, director of Calvert Library. “When the carts arrived at the new library, the movers knew exactly where to place them on the marked shelves.”

The furniture, the color of pale honey, is all new.

Out with the Old

If the move took days, planning, funding, designing and building a new library took more than a dozen years.

Budget-minded commissioners and taxpayers had to be persuaded that Duke Street’s space was too cramped to accommodate the books, readers and, as every modern library must, computers. The wiring and technology were inadequate. At 28,000 square feet, the new library doubles the space of the old; there is plenty of room for new books. State-of-the-art wiring readily supports the 27 new computers.

Patricia Hofmann, director of Calvert Library, takes in the new surroundings.

In with the New

The new library is two tall stories of light and space enclosed by stone, brick and glass. To get the full impact, see it from all sides. It’s as if you were seeing a solid form of Claude Monet’s many painted images of Rouen Cathedral.

Of course, the library has nothing to do with the north of France. It is truly and comfortably Southern Maryland, and Calvert County in particular. The designer, Melanie Hennigan, incorporated the County’s distinctive elements: the tobacco barn, the silo and the lighthouse. The architects, Grimm & Parker, carried that vision into their drawing boards and the contractor, Zadmer Enterprises, built it into solid form.

Inside, the Calvert theme continues. The north side café floor is inlaid with a sparkly blue quartz tile symbolizing Chesapeake Bay. In the grand staircase, the variations of the stone’s texture and color — achieved by zolotone painted on concrete — call to mind Calvert Cliffs. In the far end of the library, a gas fireplace is surrounded by fossils imbedded as if in the Cliffs.

Easy chairs flank the fireplace. The comfort features of the library also include a small store run by the Friends of the Library. Coffee is available, as well as snacks from machines. The huge windows filter out UV rays, bathing staff and visitors in healthy light.

Upstairs, the children’s section is illuminated by jellyfish lights that change colors. Two tables, designed by Davis Kelsey of St. Mary’s County, continue the fossil theme. Children’s librarian Leslie Bonner designed the cut-outs of Chesapeake Bay’s denizens on the chairs suitable for smaller bodies. A thoughtful section of the children’s corner has a parenting section of books on subjects ranging from potty training to dealing with sibling rivalry. The teen section is enclosed by fabric, reminiscent of a boat’s sails.

The many aesthetic upgrades were funded by the Calvert Library Foundation, which raised a quarter of a million dollars through donations by individuals and businesses to pay for enhancements beyond the reach of tax dollars. The total cost of the project, funded by county and state taxpayers, came close to $8 million.

Left Behind

Through it all, library programs such as Storytime, Fright Night, Creative Memoir workshop, Poets’ Corner and Creep Fest Open Mike continued in the old building.

This year, storytellers performed in the creepy, empty wasteland that only days before had been a lively circulation area. As one of the last programs in the old building, Open Mick readers had to do a little special rigging. Staff had remembered to leave the microphone in the old building, but the podium with the amplifier had already made the trek to Costley Way. A makeshift microphone stand was crafted out of duct tape and a music stand. Otherwise, public relations coordinator Robyn Truslow called the move “smooth and efficient.”

Come, Enjoy

The grand opening for the new library is January, 2007, with special events scheduled all month. But the library opened to readers at 3pm on Halloween afternoon. Librarians were soon busy checking out books. Patron May Kneale clutched an armful of books for her four-year-old daughter Ava.

“I have my own library card,” Ava said, pride in her voice.

I, too, checked out books, both by Maryland writers. It seemed appropriate.

“I wish I could take a week off and just read the new books,” reference librarian Janice Kenney said wistfully, pointing to the display cases of new books in etageres at the end of rows of bookcases.

The library is open 61 hours a week. On the wish list is to have it open on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. And books, more books.

With drop-off parking, wheelchair access and some 60 parking spots, the library qualifies as a no-stress zone in my book. Next to it, a shopping mall is rising. When Market Square Shopping Center is completed, you can use the library, do your shopping and have lunch in one of its restaurants. For now, enjoy the esthetics of the library, look things up on a computers and check out some books.

Can’t find your book of choice? Ask the friendly librarian to put you on the waiting list or have it brought in from the three branches. After all, Calvert County has four libraries, and the state’s interlibrary loan program can track down just about any book.

The new library has a brick patio where bricks are already inscribed with names and sayings. “When I got my library card, life began,” is inscribed on one. On opening day, a young boy searched for his. He’s sure to become a regular patron of the library where his name is etched in brick now — and still will be when he is a grandfather.

Find form for honoring friends and relatives at the front desk. Each brick costs $100.

Helena Mann-Melnitchenko of Owings feels right at home in the new library. She doesn’t even miss the stone lions guarding the 42nd Street library in Manhattan, where she researched many of her college papers.

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