Queen Anne’s Li­brary dis­cusses growth, grants

Record Observer - - NEWS - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — An ex­panded li­brary to bet­ter serve the com­mu­nity is what staff, board mem­bers and county res­i­dents said in num­bers last week about the Kent Is­land li­brar y dur­ing the bud­get hear­ings.

Prior to the avalanche of pleas for $325,000 to be added to the cap­i­tal bud­get to match a state grant for ex­pan­sion de­sign, li­brary staff and board mem­bers talked to the com­mis­sion­ers on April 11 about the grant and up­dated it on the li­brary’s needs.

Dur­ing the com­mis­sion’s April 11 meet­ing, li­brary di­rec­tor John Walden and board Pres­i­dent Kris­ten Piro­nis and Vice Pres­i­dent Greg Gilbert out­lined the steps the li­brary sys­tem took prior to be­ing in­formed it would re­ceive a state grant for ar­chi­tec­ture and engi­neer­ing de­signs.

Though many peo­ple think of books when they hear the word li­brary, Walden said he be­lieves they are also about peo­ple and the re­la­tion­ships formed. As li­braries have grown from sim­ply a place to check out books to an area with ac­tive pro­gram­ing for peo­ple of all ages, a lo­ca­tion with in­ter­net ac­ces­si­bil­ity and an out­let for com­mu­nity mem­bers to gather and host events, Walden said his staff “strives to help any­body who comes through the door.”

“Peo­ple in the com­mu­nity come to us, they trust us, they feel the li­brary is a safe en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

Walden said li­braries are at the fore­front of “in­tel­lec­tual free­dom,” which he de­scribed as users hav­ing the right to read, seek information and speak freely.

As a place to gather information and hold dis­cus­sions, Walden said the staff has “opened the doors to en­gage our com­mu­nity” with cur­rent so­cial is­sues. Two weeks ago the li­brary hosted a pro­gram on racial dis­par­ity in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem through a view­ing of the movie “13th,” and have looked into pro­grams about im­mi­gra­tion and home­less­ness, he said.

But for a li­brary that hasn’t ex­panded since its cre­ation in 1989 in a com­mu­nity that has, space can be hard to come by. Dur­ing the pub­lic hear­ings re­gard­ing the Fis­cal Year 2018 bud­get last week com­mu­nity mem­bers dom­i­nated the hear­ing with sto­ries of the Kent Is­land branch’s im­por­tance and how more space is needed to con­tinue to serve the res­i­dents not just on the is­land but through­out the county.

Gilbert shared a pow­er­point with information from OrangeBoy, Inc., a data-col­lect­ing com­pany, to put into num­bers how pop­u­lar the Kent Is­land li­brary has been.

Gilbert said there were 10,627 ac­tive card hold­ers who used the li­brary last year, de­fined by hav­ing ac­tu­ally used the card rather than just hav­ing one. He said the Kent Is­land li­brary is­sued 964 new cards last year.

To get the ball rolling on ob­tain­ing the state de­sign grant, the li­brary staff hired a plan­ning spe­cial­ist to go over plans for chil­dren’s ar­eas, tech­nol­ogy, col­lec­tion stor­age and other li­brary needs, Walden said, as well as an engi­neer­ing firm to re­view zon­ing.

Gilbert said all the grant ap­pli­ca­tion work paid off as the li­brary was given a no­tice of in­tent to award the grant from the state to the li­brary. Hav­ing pre­vi­ously given a let­ter to sup­port to the state for the project, Gilbert told the com­mis­sion­ers the li­brary now needed a let­ter of com­mit­ment to match the state grant funds.

If the county does not fund $325,000, the grant will be lost, Gilbert said.

Li­brary staff hoped to keep the process mov­ing for ward by ap­ply­ing for con­struc­tion grant money. Gilbert said three projects this year were is­sued more than $1 mil­lion each, so money was avail­able for ac­tual con­struc­tion.

Gilbert said if the com­mis­sion­ers didn’t match the grant now, it will be much more dif­fi­cult in the fu­ture as Queen Anne’s County had never ap­plied for the grant be­fore. Gilbert said a few years ago in a meet­ing that dis­cussed how to ap­ply for the grant about five coun­ties were in at­ten­dance. This year, he said, there were 19.

The com­mis­sion­ers have un­til May 26 to in­form the li­brary if it will pro­vide the funds.

“We’re ask­ing each of you to help us sup­port our com­mu­nity through its li­braries,” Piro­nis said. “...This will serve our com­mu­nity bet­ter.”

Dur­ing the bud­get hear­ings, Com­mis­sion­ers Mark An­der­son and Robert Buckey said they would vote to pro­vide funds in the fi­nal­ized cap­i­tal bud­get for an ex­pan­sion.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Queen Anne’s County Li­brary of­fi­cials spoke to the county com­mis­sion­ers dur­ing its April 11 meet­ing about grant money avail­able to de­sign a Kent Is­land Li­brary ex­pan­sion. From left: Board Vice Pres­i­dent Gre­gory Gilbert, Li­brary Di­rec­tor John Walden and Board Pres­i­dent Kris­ten Piro­nis.

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