- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Leonardtown branch of the St. Mary’s County Library is due for a renovation. When that renovation work begins, likely within the next year, the library will have to be closed for extended periods of time.
The library was originally built in the 1950s as a National Guard armory, complete with its own indoor shooting range. The renovation is intended to make the building a better fit as a library.
There were plans to build a new $16 million library on 172 acres across Hollywood Road from the current site, but the county commissioners in 2011 halted that project and decided to renovate the existing library instead.
Last year, that renovation project was budgeted at $1.8 million, but the price tag is now $3.2 million because of mandated building code upgrades.
The county commissioners were briefed Tuesday about the renovation. The need to close the library during some of that construction time did not come up.
“There will be a time when the library will have to be closed because all of the major systems we have will have to be moved or replaced,” Kathleen Reif, director of the county’s library system, said Wednesday. “We will need to close the library for stretches of time, but we don’t know for how long.”
Renovation work is scheduled to be advertised this September, according to the county’s latest budget. It won’t be known how long the library will have to be closed during that work until construction bids come in.
The Leonardtown library is the second-busiest in Southern Maryland, Reif told the commissioners. Built in 1954, the upstairs is of little use to the public. The men’s dormitory shower room is still there, complete with its tall urinals. Reif calls that “the executive washroom,” which is now used for miscellaneous storage.
The architect’s plans will make the building “much more useful and serviceable for library needs,” Reif said.
There will be more space added for the children’s section on the first floor, taking up where the armory’s shooting range used to be.
That space is now used by the Friends of the Library to store materials for its annual book sale. The organization is now looking for an alternate space.
In the rest of the library, there will be more study rooms added upstairs and a few more computer stations. There are 30 computer stations there now, Reif said, and up to five more could be added.
The existing bathrooms often smell bad, Reif said, because of the old plumbing. “We are cementing them over and getting new ones,” she said.
The entire building’s air quality isn’t good, either, Reif said. Tests confirmed “the air in there is as bad as we thought,” she said.
The young adult book section will be moved from near the back entrance to the other side of the first floor to give teenagers enough space and enough privacy, but not too much privacy, said architect Jeff Morgan.
The back entrance today will become the main entrance when the work is complete because most of the parking is behind the library, he said. Parking is already tight for the library, Reif said, and a project to add more parking is not included in the renovation.
Study rooms will be added to the second floor and “the executive washroom” will become “a lovely little lounge,” Reif said. All of the renovations will have to be done within the confines of the existing building, which is 19,500 square feet on the first level and 3,200 square feet on the second floor. The Maryland Historical Trust wants the exterior of the building to remain the same.
“There’s really no major changes to the exterior,” Morgan said.
Leaky windows will be replaced, an elevator will be added to the building, and several other code upgrades will be made that visitors will likely not notice.
The Lexington Park library is the busiest library in Southern Maryland, Reif said, followed by Leonardtown. The Charlotte Hall library is the fourth busiest in the tri-county area.