Queen Anne’s Library discusses growth, grants
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.
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.