By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(July 11, 2019) It’s been a year since the newly constructed Berlin branch of the Worcester County Library had its soft opening on July 10, and with the first anniversary of its official Aug. 7 ribbon cutting about to arrive, library officials are delighted with the reception it has received.
“It’s been spectacular. It has been so exciting and so gratifying,” Branch Manager Alice Paterra, said. “We’ve been able to help so many people and open the world to so many people.”
Even though the $6.3 million project took about 14 months to complete, the effort to replace the small library built in 1970 began years earlier.
It was five years ago in June that the Worcester County Commissioners bought the site on Harrison Avenue for $430,000, while planning and design efforts began well before that, according to Library Director Jennifer Ranck.
She said officials and library advocates took their time designing the new facility “because we wanted to make sure we did it correctly – they spent a long time on that process.”
Construction began in May 2017 with funding from the state, Worcester County, Town of Berlin, the Worcester County Library Foundation, the Mary Humphreys Foundation and private donors.
“It’s not just a county library, it’s a community library, and through the many, many donations and volunteer hours, we were able to get this built,” Paterra said.
Ranck stressed the importance of making energy efficiency a high priority.
“One of the main goals of the project was to construct a high performance building that would consume less energy and be more cost-effective to operate and maintain,” Ranck said in a statement. “Over the past year we have been monitoring the energy costs and have been pleased by the lower energy bills and overall energy usage.”
The biggest change people seem to notice between the old and new branches: space.
“I’m just thrilled that we’re able to spread out and really help people,” Paterra said. “We can accommodate in so many more ways to communicate and be part of the town and be part of the community … we could do it at the other branch, but this gives us a lot more opportunity to reach more people, and I think that’s my favorite thing … it’s just more. It’s very inclusive.”
Ranck praised the library’s new, large meeting room, and observed that library cards and overall attendance increased over the past year.
“Since opening our doors nearly a year ago, library attendance has nearly doubled,” Ranck said. “We are pleased, though not surprised, to see an increase in the number of library cards issued and number of items checked out.”
Paterra said the Berlin branch offers a variety of services. Patrons can check out several types of media including books, magazines, movies, video games, and kits for book club.
Online services are also available for reading, listening to audio books and watching television shows.
Anyone interested in getting a library card or an online card can stop by the library on 13 Harrison Ave. Paterra said it’s free for anyone who works, goes to school or owns property in Maryland. Others can still sign up and pay a small annual fee.
Paterra said feedback is always appreciated and people can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 410-641-0650 or visit the library in Berlin.
Paterra added the Berlin branch works other libraries in Maryland to share services, and also uses an “intra library loan,” which allows access to other books.
“So even if you use your card only in Worcester County, and you want a book that is only on a shelf in a public library in Kansas, we will get it for you,” Paterra said.
However, Paterra said people at the library are always there to help. She added a representative from Veterans Affairs often comes to help those eligible learn about benefits.
People can also use the Internet and free WiFi, look for jobs and utilize the many resources the library has to offer. Paterra said she even helped someone activate their phone.
“We’re a community hub,” Paterra said. “So [if] people need information about resources, they can get it here.”
Paterra praised the efforts of the eight staff associates working to assist people on a daily basis.
“I will say that the staff at the Berlin library is phenomenal. They work together so beautifully with the same goal of making sure every patron feels welcome and part of the community,” Paterra said.
The branch also holds numerous events. This summer, Ranck said the reading program has gone well, and events are planned through August.
Additionally, the Friends of the Berlin Library sponsored the Maryland Science Center’s Star Lab Planetarium Aug. 6 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969. Shows will run every half hour from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Anyone interested in reserving a time should call 410-641-0650.
Chamber Music by the Sea will present a family concert at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 15.
“It’s for the people,” Paterra said. “It’s not something that the people stumbled upon and get to use, we really built it for our community in mind.”
For more information and a list of activities within the Berlin branch of the Worcester County Library, visit worcesterlibrary.org.