County rolls out mo­bile li­brary to serve more

Ve­hi­cle is equipped with free WiFi, books, work­sta­tions

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

With four branches across the county, the Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary sys­tem is ac­ces­si­ble to many cit­i­zens — but some, par­tic­u­larly in the north­ern and cen­tral re­gions, still strug­gle to ac­cess li­brary re­sources.

In 2015, Janet Salazar, the li­brary sys­tem’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Amanda Ste­wart (D) and Li­brary Board of Trus­tees Pres­i­dent Clau­dia Bel­lony-Atanga came up with the idea to ex­pand the li­brary in a mo­bile ca­pac­ity.

“It’s a mo­bile li­brary,” Bel­lony-Atanga said, “not a book-mo­bile.”

There is a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence be­tween the two, she said, and a dif­fer­ence in the ser­vices each brings to the county. A book-mo­bile trav­els around with dif­fer­ent read­ing ma­te­ri­als that cit­i­zens are free to browse, she said, but a mo­bile li­brary is tech­nol­ogy-ori­ented with ac­cess to on­line ma­te­ri­als as well as books.

The mo­bile li­brary has much more to of­fer, Bel­lony-Atanga said. Housed in a 26-foot long truck, the mo­bile li­brary is loaded with ca­pac­ity for 2,000 books, two pub­lic work­sta­tions in­clud­ing com­put­ers as well ac­cess to free WiFi. Cit­i­zens will also be able to reg­is­ter for a li­brary card.

The mo­bile li­brary will be mak­ing vis­its to county schools and com­mu­ni­ties, planned to be on the road for 20 days each month. The li­brary will also of­fer home de­liv­ery ser­vices for res­i­dents upon re­quest.

This li­brary will fea­ture more than just books, Salazar said.

“It’s the hub of our com­mu­nity. We’ve asked our com­mu­nity many ques­tions about our ser­vices and we’ve found out that while many are at our phys­i­cal branches, many do not have ac­cess to our re­sources,” she said.

Salazar said the li­brary sys­tem will im­prove thanks to the new ad­di­tion of a mo­bile li­brary. The com­mu­nity has been en­thu­si­as­tic about the project, she said. With this, they will be able to take ad­van­tage of “all the li­brary has to of­fer,” Salazar said.

The sup­port for this project shows how im­por­tant li­braries still are in com­mu­ni­ties, the di­rec­tor noted. Not only as places for ed­u­ca­tion, she said, but as com­mu­nity hubs.

Ste­wart, who has long cham­pi­oned the mo­bile li­brary in her role as a com­mis­sioner, said one of her first meet­ings with the li­brary’s board of trus­tees was fo­cused on “bring­ing back the book-mo­bile.”

“I’m so ex­cited,” Ste­wart said. “It’s easy to say I’m go­ing to do A, B and C. But when you stand tall and see your project ac­tu­ally hap­pen, it’s ex­cit­ing.”

The project re­ceived sup­port from the board of com­mis­sion­ers, Ste­wart said, and was turned into a pri­or­ity for the fis­cal year in 2017. Now, she said, all res­i­dents will be able to take ad­van­tage of the mo­bile li­brary’s cus­tom sys­tems.

Charles County Del­e­gate Edith Pat­ter­son (D-Charles) said this is the first sem­blance of a trav­el­ing li­brary mov­ing around the county since 1987. Since then, she said, “the county has changed a lot.”

The county com­mis­sion­ers have “stepped for­ward,” Pat­ter­son said, to serve com­mu­ni­ties that have been un­der-rec­og­nized in the past. Many still strug­gle to ac­cess li­brary branches, she said, and this puts a stop to that.

At the end of the day, Bel­lony-Atanga said, ed­u­ca­tion is the top pri­or­ity. A com­mu­nity with­out ed­u­ca­tion “won’t go far,” she said. Bet­ter­ing the qual­ity of life in the county comes along with ed­u­ca­tion, and ed­u­ca­tion comes along with the mo­bile li­brary.

“We’re mak­ing great strides in Charles County,” she said. “We’ve ex­pe­ri­enced a lot of growth, but we’re not done yet. Ed­u­ca­tion and lit­er­acy is the ticket out of poverty and is the ticket to have op­tions in life.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY MICHAEL SYKES II

Janet Salazar, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Charles County’s Pub­lic Li­brary sys­tem, un­veil­ing the new mo­bile li­brary to the au­di­ence on Tues­day af­ter­noon in front of the Charles County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing.

The Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers cut the rib­bon to sym­bol­ize the open­ing of the new Charles County Mo­bile Li­brary in front of the County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing.

County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Amanda Ste­wart speaks on the ben­e­fits of a mo­bile li­brary com­ing to Charles County be­fore the un­veil­ing of the mo­bile li­brary in from of the County Ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing on Tues­day.

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