By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Aug. 9, 2018) Just about a month after its July 10 soft opening, the new $6.25 million Berlin branch of the Worcester County Library on Harrison Avenue had its official grand opening ceremony Tuesday.
With the threat of rain looming, a crowd of close to 100 people moved indoors to an upstairs lobby and gathered around a small podium.
Speaking first, Worcester County Commissioner President Diana Purnell raved about the “gorgeous facility.”
Purnell said she toured the library earlier that day and marveled at children enjoying a new section designed just for them.
“They were having a great time. They were having a really good time!” she said. “This is a great investment in our county and in our Town of Berlin, and I thank you for that.”
Working with officials from the library and local government helped make the building unique, Purnell said.
“This is what we do when it comes to our community – we partner together that we can have the best of the best, and that’s what we’ve done here today,” she said.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said he and others were “awestruck by this wonderful facility.”
“We certainly look forward to generations experiencing something that I think has set a new standard for informational technology in our county and in our region,” Williams said.
Williams said the library provided a wealth of information, cutting-edge technology, public meeting space, and beauty inside and out.
“As a lifetime resident of Berlin, I do not believe I’ve ever witnessed so much excitement about a public project as I have seen for this new library,” he said. “The anticipation and response is [evident] in every neighborhood within our town, but what I think is particularly rewarding is to have witnessed the genuine excitement the new library has generated among our young people.”
He said that was obvious earlier this spring, when children in an afterschool program of the Kiwanis that met at Buckingham Elementary School carried out “an extraordinary book drive.”
Williams said the students put up posters throughout the school asking for children’s book donations.
“The students had high ambitions and set a goal of collecting enough donated books, stacked one on top of another, to reach the ceiling of their classroom,” he said. “In just a few weeks, the books they collected would not only have literally broken through the classroom’s ceiling, but through the school’s roof. With the generous support of Buckingham students in every grade, they collected over 1,000 children’s books for our new county library in Berlin.”
Ron Cascio, president of the library board of trustees, said the building was the newest and the finest in the Worcester County.
“None of this could’ve happened without the funding, approval, partnerships and dedication of many entities and individuals,” Cascio said.
He singled out the board of trustees, former Library Director Mark Thomas, current Director Jennifer Ranck and the county commissioners, in particular Jim Bunting who “presided as president during most of the design and the construction process.”
He also thanked the State of Maryland, Town of Berlin, the Humphreys Foundation, Worcester County Library Foundation, and private donors who supported the new library.
“A special thanks to Berlin native Joe Moore, for shaking down his lifelong friends,” Cascio said.
“You didn’t have to say ‘shakedown!’” Moore said, drawing the biggest laugh line of the ceremony.
Cascio also credited Worcester County Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins, Assistant CAO Kelly Shannahan, Budget Officer Kathy Whited, Building Administrator Bill Bradshaw and Maintenance Super Intendant Ken Whited.
“A special thanks to architect Jeff Schoellkopf,” Cascio said. “We can’t show enough appreciation for his involvement and dedication from the very start, for design and oversight of the best of his wonderful buildings that grace our area.”
Additionally, contractor Whiting-Turner “oversaw many talented subcontractors and craftsman whose excellent work will show through for decades to come,” Cascio said.
“I’d like to personally thank the many men and women, most of whose names we’ll never know, for the hours of pain, sweat and blood they gave to this fine building, its site work and landscaping,” he added.
“It was our intention from the start to provide this wonderful community with not just a library building, but a learning center, and to keep the project close to the town center,” Cascio said. “We also wanted to attempt to influence the decision makers that there could be a better way to acquire this building and to deliver to the people of Worcester County, Berlin and its visitors the finest, most efficient, affordable, long-lasting building we could.
“Only time will tell. It would be nice to hear from those, using it centuries from now, just how well we did,” he added.
Also during the ceremony, State Sen. Jim Mathias, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza and Delegate Charles Otto presented a citation on behalf of the Maryland General Assembly.
Ranck, in a separate interview Tuesday, said the success of the new library is already evidenced by the unusually high turnout during summer learning events.
“The children’s programs are doing very well this summer,” she said. “People in general are very excited to come into the quiet space to read and study, and there’s just more room to spread out.”
She said the staff is delighted with the new building, which is several times larger than the old library on Main Street.
“We’re all very excited and we’re always coming up with new ways to use the new space to benefit the community,” Ranck said.