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Washington Co. Free Library will transfer services during $18 million project

August 14, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County Free Library will transfer most of its services to another location while laborers tackle an $18 million project to renovate and expand the building, library Director Mary C. Baykan said Wednesday.

Library officials have initiated a search to find a vacant "big-box" structure to temporarily house much of the library's books and other materials when the renovation gets under way, Baykan said.

Construction could begin no later than Jan. 1, 2010, Baykan said in a March 25 letter to Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and the City Council.

Baykan said during a Wednesday telephone interview that construction could take about year. Although few details about the renovation are available, a portion of the existing library will remain open to offer "limited services," Baykan said.

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The library renovation is needed because the building on South Potomac Street is too small to accommodate about 1,000 daily visitors, Baykan said. In addition, she said, most of the equipment at the library is outdated.

"We're going to look at how to make the current space more utilitarian," Baykan said. "We desperately need to add more technology."

Baykan said an architect hasn't been chosen, but the basic plan would involve "gutting" the library and extending the existing building to the east.

When the library is finished, it would not only serve the public, Baykan said, but would act as the campus library for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

The arts school is to open in the fall of 2009, less than a block from the library, officials from Washington County Public Schools have said. It will serve high school students who want to pursue an education in the arts.

Baykan said she is grateful to public officials for supporting the renovation.

Documents from the City of Hagerstown show that the state will pay $10.5 million of the renovation costs, the county $4 million, the city $1.5 million and the library $2 million. The state is contributing to the expansion because Western Maryland Regional Library is housed in the building.

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday discussed drafting a contract to ensure that the city's share of the money would be used to acquire and demolish an undisclosed number of buildings behind the library. As part of the contract, the city would have to complete its end of the bargain by Jan. 1, 2010, so the land would be available for the library to expand.

City Economic Development Director Deborah Everhart did not return a telephone call seeking more detail about the buildings that would be demolished.

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