On Hold No More

Anne Arundel libraries reopen to patrons, new Annapolis library debuts later this month 

Serving the public is what libraries were built for. Even in a pandemic. 

From expanding its virtual programs and digital collections to launching curbside pickup for the first time last month, the Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) system has done a lot to continue serving the public—especially since all 16 branches closed their doors on March 13 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.   

Now, all branches, aside from the system’s newest branch in Annapolis, have resumed indoor service—including, notably, the newly-renovated Severn Community Library. 

Naturally, you should expect some changes in how things will flow in your local branch now. 

For starters, all libraries are running a more-limited-than-normal schedule, open Monday through Thursday (10am-7pm), and Saturday, (10am-5pm) with reduced occupancy. That means 26 people max indoors at a small branch like Deale Library and 74 maximum at the Crofton branch, at least through September 7. Most locations will continue to offer curbside pickup Monday through Thursday (3-6pm), and Friday and Saturday (10am-noon). 

As for what things look like inside, all staff and patrons will be wearing masks (free masks are available to patrons while supplies last); the amount of furniture and seating will be reduced, as well as the number of available public computers, and computer time will be limited to two hours per person. 

Although there will be no in-person programs or use of meeting and conference rooms, the virtual programming will continue all summer, including the popular Summer @ Your Library program (https://www.aacpl.net/summer). Kids can still log their reading time, books and activities to win prizes in the challenge through the Beanstack website.  

Access to some physical materials and services will also be limited, including toys in the children’s areas, and no faxing, scanning, copying, or wireless printing, with all returns limited to book drop. Patrons are encouraged to use a self-checkout machine or the AACPL Checkout App (https://www.aacpl.net/aacpl-checkout). 

Of course these rules and regulations are well worth the price of admission (aka free) for what many people consider an essential service – and well worth the wait for those in Annapolis, where patrons have been waiting on the county’s first new library construction in 16 years, the Michael E. Busch Annapolis Library, which broke ground in April 2018.  

As Christine Feldmann, AACPL Marketing and Communications Director, puts it, “People will be blown away with all this building has to offer and all a library can be.” 

Opening on July 22, the 32,500-square-foot facility has likely already caught the attention of passersby thanks to its beautiful brick façade, plentiful floor-to-ceiling windows, and angled “prow” that faces West Street.  

Inside, a 230-foot-long central corridor with a sloped exposed-beam ceiling and windows provides lots of light, along with an assortment of hanging lights. The increase in size was a necessity, as Feldmann expects the new library to attract roughly 1,500 visitors a day, up from the old library’s average of 1,000, and inspire plenty of new card signups once capacity returns to normal. 

As for what will draw these visitors in and keep them coming on a regular basis, Library CEO Skip Auld says it’s all about having something – or really multiple things – for everyone. 

“Libraries have a history going back many centuries as a storehouse for books, with the emphasis on preservation rather than use,” Auld continues. “However, in our modern era, libraries have become places that function to serve ever-changing community needs, and every square foot of the new Annapolis Library reflects the changing nature of how people use libraries.” 

The Busch Annapolis Library will house approximately 85,000 combined print books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, Launchpads, and Playaways. The high-tech facility will also offer self-service through meeScan, a new app that allows you to scan your materials on your phone and check yourself out in one fell swoop. 

But the many age- and service-specific areas of the library mean that most visitors will likely want to do more than just grab and go.  

Once regular service resumes, the children’s areas will host diverse early development and reading programs, while the 32-computer Tech Zone will provide teens and adults the opportunity to pursue research and career advancement. The Tinker/Maker Space, a STEM-driven area filled with high-tech to low-tech tools, from a heat press and 3D printer to a LEGO wall, and the large vending café are sure to be big draws as well. And as Feldmann reports, the library will be able to offer far more programming than ever before, from movie nights and concerts, to yoga and high-visibility author lectures, in the 3,000 square-foot meeting room.  

Of interest to Bay country, the library offers plenty of unique Chesapeake-inspired design elements to enjoy as well. Without giving too much away, you’ll be sure to notice the town and city names on a huge digital map of the entire Chesapeake Bay at the building’s entrance, and you’ll likely recognize at least one of the historical figures on the main corridor’s wall panels. Venture to the Gold Star Room and take a look at the carpet and, if you can’t figure out what it depicts, ask a librarian for the answer.  

Because that is what the new Michael E. Busch Annapolis Library and all of the county’s branches offer us: discovery. Discovering interests you didn’t know you had, opportunities you didn’t know existed, and the ability to pursue them in a place that, not so long ago, many people predicted would be doomed by the rise of the internet, e-books, and social media addiction. 

That’s certainly not the case in Anne Arundel County, and we sure are happy to have our libraries back. 

Calvert County libraries remain closed to the public, although curbside services are available. Library spokesperson Robyn Truslow says the board of trustees met July 7 to discuss next stage plans in order to work toward a safe reopening. “In the meantime, we are pleased to be getting library materials in customers’ hands via curbside pickup and of course continuing to provide phone/email reference and tech training, digital circulation and online events, performances and classes,” Truslow says.