As we approach the end of 2013, I am sure many of you are taking a few moments to take stock of what has happened during the previous twelve months. It seems to me that this sort of “reality check” exercise is a good way to evaluate where we have been, in the hopes of better determining where we really want to go during the year to come. This exercise makes just as much sense for organizations as well as for individuals. Here in Baltimore County, our library system has had an action-packed, dynamic year. Looking back over 2013, it is hard to imagine that the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) has changed so much in such a short span of time. Let’s take a few moments to look back over the accomplishments of this suburban, 19 branch library system, in the hopes that your local public libraries have similar successes to look back at and reflect upon.
The BCPL year began with a milestone that was literally over a decade in the making. We successfully opened our nineteenth branch library, in the suburban Baltimore community known as Owings Mills. This 54,000 square foot building – the largest branch in the system – is a shared facility with the Community College of Baltimore County. Three floors of the building serve the library’s customers, while the remaining three floors provide classroom and educational spaces for the community college. I personally think that shared facilities like this are a trend that makes a good bit of sense. Shared-use facilities benefit the general public – making varied public resources more easily accessible to the masses.
Not long after the April 2013 opening of the Owings Mills Branch, BCPL celebrated the fifth anniversary of Storyville @Rosedale. This interactive children’s library has served over 750,000 individuals since its opening in early 2008. Children from birth to five have taken their first steps into the wonderful world of reading at Storyville, which is located within BCPL’s Rosedale Branch library. A similar facility was added at BCPL’s Woodlawn Branch in 2010, so as to serve citizens in the western portion of Baltimore County. Starting children off with a love of books and reading just makes sense these days, given the increasing important of preparing youth for the rigors of K-12 education and beyond.
During the summer of 2013, it was announced that a series of service expansions were coming to BCPL. Starting in September 2013, Sunday hours were added for all branches year-round, while four smaller, satellite branches benefited from the addition of staff. Historically, just four BCPL branches were open on Sundays year-round with nine others open on Sundays from September through May. Now, all BCPL branches are open on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. all year-round. Lastly, hours were added at the Loch Raven Branch so the branch is open for the same number of hours per week as other branches throughout the system.
To accomplish this expansion of hours and strengthening of satellite services without incurring substantial additional costs, BCPL carefully evaluated staffing levels at all branches. Based on results of the evaluation, changes were made that allow for expanded services including setting up a rotation for both full and part-time staff to cover Sunday hours and the movement of some positions around the system to strengthen satellite branches. During challenging economic times, the ability to increase staff efficiency and productivity represent smart ways of doing more with the same, or perhaps less.
These are just some of the highlights of what turned out to be a really great year for libraries in Baltimore County. To top it all off, it was announced during November 2013, that the Owings Mills Branch would serve as the host of the Negro Baseball Museum of Maryland. This unique, visual exhibition will add another attraction to what is already becoming one of our busiest branches.
I would encourage each of you to set aside a few moments to review all of the great happenings that took place in your local public library system during 2013. We should all be sure to celebrate our collective successes, while also looking forward to what we hope to accomplish during the year ahead.