Baltimore County Public Library

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Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL), established in 1948, is a public library system located in central Maryland. BCPL serves Baltimore County, Maryland, which surrounds but does not include the city of Baltimore. (Baltimore City is served by the Enoch Pratt Free Library.)

BCPL offers a wide variety of services in its branches and website. The branches offer a collection of current, high-demand print and non-print items, including books on compact discs, DVDs, and video games, as well as access to online research databases, downloadable audiobooks, ebooks, and much more. All branches provide public computer access and are Wi-Fi accessible. Branches offer free programs and activities for all ages.

Librarians are available at each branch to respond to the information needs of customers who walk-in or phone-in with questions. BCPL also provides Ask A Question, an email reference service and participates in the Maryland AskUsNow! chat reference service staffed 24/7 by Maryland librarians or librarians nationwide.


BCPL has 19 branch locations. BCPL's Mobile Library Services operates 4 bookmobiles. The branches are strategically located around Baltimore County. Baltimore County has no incorporated towns or communities. Yet the unincorporated areas have names and are considered communities by many residents despite having no clear-cut boundaries. Many of these communities have a BCPL branch located within them.

Special collections[edit]

Foreign language collections[edit]

  • Korean fiction and non-fiction books for adults and children are available at the Cockeysville, Parkville, and Towson branches.
  • Russian materials for adults and children can be found at the Pikesville, Randallstown and Reisterstown branches. A small collection of entertainment or feature DVDs in Russian for adults are available at the Pikesville and Reisterstown branches.
  • Spanish children's books, mainly picture books, in Spanish and bi-lingual Spanish and English can be found at all branches. The Catonsville, Essex, North Point, and Towson branches have collections of fiction and non-fiction for adults and older children in Spanish.
  • Books and CDs for learning foreign languages are available at all branches and can be found in the non-fiction section of the branch.

Legacy Web - Historic photographs[edit]

A growing collection of more than 17,000 local historic photographs with annotations are included in Legacy Web, Baltimore County Public Library's online photo archive. The photographs cover most aspects of life in Baltimore County for the last 130 years. In April 2010, the images in the Legacy Web were added to the Baltimore County Public Library online catalog.

Local history rooms[edit]

The Arbutus, Catonsville, Reisterstown and Towson branches house historical archives on the local communities they serve. The local community history information may include rare and out-of-print books, newspaper clippings, and historical prints of local sites. These materials are available for in-branch use only and in some cases are accessible by appointment with the appropriate branch.

Research databases[edit]

BCPL provides a variety of online databases, which include information on health, business, homework topics, and test preparation. Most databases provide access to articles in magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias and more. They are useful for research, schoolwork or simply for pleasure. All databases are accessible at a Baltimore County Public Library branch and most are available from home, work or school through the Baltimore County Public Library website with a Baltimore County library card.


A complete history of BCPL is available on the Administration, Mission, History page on the BCPL website.

Baltimore County Public Library system established with a Board of Trustees. The first Board is appointed to consolidate independent libraries at Arbutus-Halethorpe, Catonsville and its Banneker High School branch, Cockeysville, Dundalk and its Turner Station branch, Essex, Middle River, Pikesville, Relay, Sparrows Point, and Towson.
1948 October
Administrative Office opens in temporary quarters at 120 West Pennsylvania Avenue, Towson.
1949 January
Richard D. Minnich, previously director of the Easton, Pennsylvania, library, becomes first county librarian to direct the system.
Central ordering and cataloging results in weekly delivery service to libraries and eliminates duplicated work in the branches.
Interlibrary loan department established to provide customers with books from another Baltimore County Public Library branch or from Enoch Pratt Free Library's Division of Library Extension.
1952 September 8
Bookmobile service begins with one vehicle and headquarters in the building previously occupied by the Pikesville Memorial Library.
1954 February 23
Dundalk Library moves to a building acquired from Bethlehem Steel in the heart of Dundalk on Center Place. This is the first library building owned by Baltimore County.
1956 January
Bookmobile service expands with second vehicle to cover the eastern area of Baltimore County. It is housed at the Essex Library and carries 3,100 volumes. It is a 32 foot 10 ton vehicle with air brakes, power steering, electrical generator. This is the first branch responsible for combined bookmobile and branch operations.
Board authorizes survey to produce plan for future development of library services in county. Consultants were headed by Dr. Lowell Martin, dean of Graduate School of Library Services at Rutgers University.
1956 December
"Long playing recordings" added to all libraries and both bookmobiles. The collection included classical, vocal, children's, drama records. The first phonograph collection was started at the Middle River Library.
1957 March 4
Towson Library and administrative offices share rented quarters at 28 West Susquehanna Avenue, Towson. Previously the Towson Library was located in a six-room apartment at 25 West Pennsylvania Avenue. It was so crowded that even the bathtub as well as closets and kitchen housed the collection!
Lowell Martin survey report prompts growth plan which is adopted by Board of Library Trustees. Branches are to be spotted around the Baltimore Beltway and designated as "area" or "community" in size. "Area" libraries are to serve as resource centers for "community" size libraries.
1959 January
Charles W. Robinson arrives on the scene as Assistant County Librarian.
Machine charging (checkout materials): Towson Library is the first in county to use photocharging. A photograph was taken of each patron card transaction using RECORDAK and McBee Keysort process. The results were stored on microfilm.
1961 October 16
Reisterstown Branch moves to 21 Cockeys Mill Road, Reistertown, into an historic building dating from the 1820s. The building first was known as the Franklin Academy; later it became the first high school in Baltimore County.
Library Associate Training Program: "To help meet the pressing need for trained, knowledgeable people to assist the public in the use and enjoyment of materials available in library collections", Baltimore County Public Library created a new job classification and started a training program for "Library Aides". This program eventually went statewide.
Charles W. Robinson named Director after death of Richard D. Minnich.
1963 September 9
Perry Hall Branch opens at a leased location at 9440 Belair Road, Perry Hall. The building was privately constructed to library specification and leased by Baltimore County. It replaced bookmobile service to the area.
1963 December 9
Catonsville Branch moves into present building at 1100 Frederick Road, Catonsville. Branch is first "area library" to be constructed according to Martin Plan concept devised in 1958. It was the first library building actually built by County as a library.
1965 July 15
Baltimore County Public Library is first library in country to replace the card catalog with a computer generated catalog in book form. This allowed customers to see the holdings of all the branches in the system for the first time.
1965 April 15
Baltimore County Public Library Board considers closing Relay Library within one year.
1965 March 15
North Point Branch opens as the second "area branch" at 1716 Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, and the first of several branches placed in a shopping center.
BCPL established first collection of 8 mm film in the metropolitan area.
1966 March 21
Randallstown Branch supplies library service from a temporary 50-foot (15 m) trailer, fondly called the RAT.
1966 December 19
Lansdowne Branch, a 5,100-square-foot (470 m2) white concrete block library, was dedicated at 500 Third Avenue, Lansdowne. The branch was the first built by County under aid provisions of the federal Library Services and Construction Act.
1967 October 23
Randallstown Branch moves from trailer to an expansive new building at 8604 Liberty Road, Randallstown.
1968 May 13
Loch Raven Branch opens between Towson and Parkville in an attractive wooded site located next to a shopping area. It was necessary to place the library building on one side of a stream bed and the parking area on the other side. Crossing the stream is a footbridge.
1969 April 6
Loch Raven Branch wins a Maryland Best Design Achievement Award from Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Baltimore and American Institute of Architects, Baltimore Chapter.
1969 June 16
Essex Branch dedicated at 1110 Eastern Boulevard, Essex.
A small bookmobile serves as a summer book van for children in summer camps and recreation centers. During the winter the vehicle stopped at institutions such as nursing homes and retirement communities.
Late 1970s
BCPL studied retail store design, particularly store layout and merchandising strategies. This resulted in branch layouts being set up to encourage browsing and to the purchasing of "book store" display shelving.
1971 January 10
Parkville Branch moves into brand-new quarters at 9509 Harford Road, Parkville, and is sometimes called the Parkville-Carney Branch.
Volunteer program begins system-wide in 1974 with four volunteers.
1974 May 12
Towson Branch and administrative offices move into new building at 320 York Road, Towson.
1974 June 23
Rosedale Branch opens in angular building at 6105 Kenwood Avenue, Rosedale.
Centralized selection of material begins. Monthly book selection where all the librarians drove from their branches to look at the titles displayed for selection no longer occurs. A Materials Selection Department was set up to handle new purchasing and replacement buying.
Microfilm format for catalog replaces book catalog.
1975 February
Community Information File debuts as a paper file at the Catonsville Branch. It becomes available to the public systemwide in June 1975. The file was discontinued on December 21, 2010.
Towson Branch passes 1,000,000 mark in circulation.
Towson Branch is first branch to go on line with CLSI, an automated circulation system. All branches converted to CLSI by 1987.
To Satisfy Demand: a Study Plan for Public Library Service in Baltimore County, Baltimore County Public Library's first strategic plan, became the model for the Public Library Association/American Library Association's Planning Process for Public Libraries.
1977 October 17
Woodlawn Branch opens at 1811 Woodlawn Drive, Woodlawn.
Baltimore County Public Library initiates Generalism. All librarians serve all customers. This eliminates separate Children and Adult Departments in Baltimore County Public Library.
"Mini Library" concept established when communities sought libraries that could not be justified in the library's physical facilities plan for the county. The County Executive promoted the idea of volunteer-run mini-branches for which the county would provide leased spaces and the library would provide a collection. They were stocked for quick pickup of popular adult and children's materials and were based in small neighborhood shopping centers. Four minis were set up in the Edgemere, Jacksonville, Owings Mills, and Wellwood communities. They were administered by nearby full-service branches. Full service branches provided the full range of information and programming services with salaried librarians and circulation staff.
By 1979 all of the general service bookmobiles were gone from the system.
Clearinghouse office, now the Information Services Department, began using an online DIALOG database to answer patron information queries.
1982 February 16
Cockeysville Branch opens at 9833 Greenside Drive, Cockeysville. It is one of the first library facilities in the nation featuring bookstore display shelving and neon signage.
1982 February 16
Pikesville Branch moves to quarters in brand new Pikesville Community Center at 1301 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville. The building is shared with the Pikesville Senior Center.
Sneaks the Cat became the Summer Reading Club Mascot and is still making annual appearances.
Compact discs added to the collection.
Baltimore County Public Library's first CD-ROM database available to public. It was Information Access Company's Magazine Index Plus.
S.T.A.R. (Shortcuts to Accurate Reference) was adopted requiring extensive reference interview training for all information desk staff using an adaptation of the Maryland model developed by the Division of Library Development and Services of the Maryland State Department of Education. Trainers introduced staff to the key model reference behaviors still in use today.
Videotapes added to collection. Collection discontinued June 2008.
1988 January 25
White Marsh Branch, a 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) building, opens in the expanding community of White Marsh at 8133 Sandpiper Circle.
1988 February
Phonograph records no longer being purchased.
1988 October 3
Hereford Branch opens at 16940 York Road, Hereford, serving the Hereford Zone.
Hereford Branch was the first Baltimore County Public Library with a Local Area Network (LAN) that included a 4 station CD-ROM network for electronic reference material.
1992 September 14
Arbutus Branch moved to Arbutus Business Center, 1581 Sulphur Spring Road Suite 105, Arbutus. The branch doubled in size to 15,800-square-foot (1,470 m2).
Give 'Em What They Want! Managing the Public's Library is written by Baltimore County Public Library staff (Blue Ribbon Committee) and published by the American Library Association. The book described the Baltimore County Public Library's "Give 'Em What They Want" philosophy of service.
1993 February
Dundalk, Edgemere, Jacksonville, Lansdowne, Loch Raven, Middle River, Owings Mills, Turner Station, Wellwood branches closed due to budget cuts and resulting layoff of 21 staff.
Baltimore County Public Library changes circulation system to CARL. Customers interacted with a GUI (graphical user interface) catalog called "Everybody's Catalog" and had access to online databases.
Baltimore County Public Library began offering an Internet provider service, called BCPL.NET, to customers. This service was discontinued on June 30, 2008.
Baltimore County Public Library website is launched with several databases mounted to expand information resources. It was first called the BCPL "WOW (Window on the World) Web".
Charles W. Robinson retires after 33 years as Library Director.
1996 September
James H. Fish becomes Director of Baltimore County Public Library.
1996 March
Essex Branch's Libraries Online Family Learning Center: Microsoft Online Grant provided the library system's first computer learning center offering public access to computer software and the Internet. Baltimore County Public Library was one of nine libraries nationwide to be involved in Microsoft's pilot project to make computer access available to the public. Other branch computer centers followed.
1996 November
Ask A Librarian email service begins with each branch as well as the Information Services Department responding to queries directed to their agency by email.
Baltimore County Public Library's 50th Anniversary introduces a new logo/slogan, "Where you find it". The logo and slogan appear on banners, billboards, and as eye-catching designs on delivery vans.
1998 May 1
Baltimore County Public Library began a Virtual Book Club, a book club email discussion group which has since disbanded.
1998 June 22
Loch Raven Branch reopens in its original building which was opened as a branch in 1968 and closed in February 1993. It is located at 1046 Taylor Avenue, Towson.
Express self-checkout machines first installed at Catonsville, Cockeysville, and Towson Branches.
Mobile Library Services' Read Rover (RR) and Special Delivery (SD) combine to form a new department, formerly called Institutional Services.
1999 May
Infobank, a joint project of Baltimore County Public Library's Information Services Department and Baltimore County's Department of Economic Development, goes live. The content is geared toward encouraging business relocation or expansion in Baltimore County.
1999 April
Legacy Web began a web presence for BCPL’s collection of historic photos as a result of a grant from Maryland Division of Library Development and Services (DLDS). The collection is now searchable through the catalog.
2000 February
First coffee bar in Baltimore County Public Library opens for service at Pikesville Branch.
20 July 2000
Unique Management Services Collection Agency contracted to provide help in recovering long overdue items and fines.
2001 January
Third bookmobile dubbed "Library on the Go" is added to Mobile Library Services. The 30-foot (9.1 m) bookmobile holding up to 3,000 items, has 4 public computers with Internet access and a lift for persons with disabilities.
5 May 2001
Randallstown Branch fire: early morning one-alarm fire damages work rooms and roof. The stack areas had mainly smoke and water damage.
6 July 2001
Ask a Question email reference service replaces individual branch service with a centralized response coming from the Information Services Department.
16 July 2001
Following a May fire, Randallstown Mini Library opens in a trailer parked in the Randallstown Branch parking lot with full-time service, adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, audio visual materials, and 10 public computers.
2001 October
Opening of the "Kid's Kingdom", a castle with dragons for the children of the Towson Branch.
2001 December
Essex Branch "hooks" fish for its Chesapeake Bay-themed renovation. Essex reeled in one of Baltimore's "Fish Out of Water" sculptures when it was auctioned on E-bay. "Holy Mackerel" a brightly colored 40-pound creation by artist Bennard Perlman first resided in front of the Baltimore Basilica across the street from the Enoch Pratt Free Library in downtown Baltimore.
2002 January
AskUsNow! Virtual Reference: Baltimore County Public Library and Harford County Public Library provides first LIVE online reference service to Maryland students as part of a state grant. The target audience was "high risk" students needing help with homework related assignments. Eventually the service went statewide, as Maryland AskUsNow!, to serve the Maryland public with many other public and academic libraries participating.
29 April 2002
Randallstown Branch returns to full service after fire.
18 August 2004
White Marsh became the first library in the country to offer Fastrac technology, which enables customers to check out their own materials using specially equipped Fastrac express-checkout machines.
3 June 2005
Mobile Library Services' Read Rover Plus is dedicated and begins visiting Baltimore County child care providers. The purchase was made possible as a result of a Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library project.
5 June 2005 and July 12
Downloadable electronic books (ebooks) and audio books made available through a partnership with other Maryland public libraries.
12 October 2005
First Early Childhood Center opens at North Point Branch. This was a multi-agency project named "Focus on the First Years". The Center is designed to provide families a "one-stop-shop" for services and a play center with learning activities for their infants and toddlers that encourages reading readiness and child development in their formative years.
12 January 2006
Woodlawn Branch officially opens in an expanded facility that includes an Early Literacy Activity Center. It becomes the first county library branch to provide wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) via a radio signal.
23 March 2006
All branches and the Administrative Offices have staff and public wireless networks in operation. The customer with a wireless-enabled laptop or personal digital assistants (PDAs) can access the Internet without plugging into a modem or other device.
5 April 2006
Lansdowne Branch reopens after being closed since February 1993, occupying the original library building at 500 Third Avenue, Lansdowne. Official ribbon-cutting ceremony held on April 8.
12 September 2006
BCPL introduces a new catalog interface called AquaBrowser (which has been implemented through several other Maryland libraries) that allows customers to look for library materials using the more familiar search engine model for finding information.
26 September 2006
BCPL launches a text-only version of its website.
24 October 2006
Video game collection released to the public. It features a collection of children (EC and E ESRB Ratings) and adult (T Ratings) video games.
2006 October
The Pikesville Branch closes most of its services during a renovation that lasted until mid-July. The renovation cost $4.18 million and included expansion of the Pikesville Branch and Senior Center.
11 July 2007
The Pikesville Branch officially re-opened after almost six months of renovations. The finished branch boasts enhancements like a children's activity center and story time room, a magazine/newspaper reading area, an enlarged area for browsing new books, a large lounge with assistive reading devices, a young adult lounge, improved checkout and information desks, new carpeting, and other interior improvements.
2 January 2008
BCPL implements "Floating Collections", later "Shared Collections", systemwide.
7 February 2008
Storyville, an interactive early literacy learning center opens inside the Rosedale Branch.
24 January 2009
Baltimore County Public Library is named recipient of John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award in "recognition and for outstanding achievement in library public relations, for the Storyville marketing campaign". Awarded by the H.W. Wilson Company, the H.W. Wilson Foundation, and the Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).
9 March 2009
The Perry Hall Branch opened for full service in new building at 9685 Honeygo Boulevard on Monday, March 9, 2009. First Baltimore County Public Library branch with a drive-up window. The window opened for service on February 10, 2009. The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Monday, March 23, 2009.
7 December 2009
Baltimore County Public Library switches to Polaris Library Systems for their catalog system.
1 March 2010
Second Storyville opens in the Woodlawn Branch.
30 June 2010
Cockeysville Branch reopens in enlarged space.
10 August 2010
In June 2010, the Arbutus Branch closed its doors at 1581 Sulphur Spring Road and reopened on August 10, 2010 at 855 Sulphur Spring Road in a new enlarged branch adjoining a new senior center and community center.
19 December 2011
Sollers Point Branch, a 5,000 square foot facility, opened at the Sollers Point Multipurpose Center with a 14,000 item materials collection.
21 March 2013
Owings Mills Branch, Baltimore County Public Library's largest branch at 54,300 square feet, opened to the public on March 21, 2013 at the County Campus Metro Center at Owings Mills. The branch occupies the first two floors of the six-floor building with the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) Owings Mills.
27 March 2014
The Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball is a free museum that is located at the Owings Mills Branch. It is open during all library operating hours. Exhibits and displays of photographs, artifacts, memorabilia, and graphic panels of both Maryland and U.S. Negro Leagues are showcased at the sites which can be found on each level of the library's three floors.
2 June 2014
Parkville-Carney Branch which closed on March 29, 2014 reopened on Monday, June 2 after extensive internal renovations.
4 August 2014
Paula Miller becomes the fourth Director of Baltimore County Public Library.

Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library[edit]

The Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing financial contributions to enhance the traditional tax-based funding for library resources, services and programming.

In 1999, based on the vision of library Director Jim Fish, the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library was established to provide additional financial and volunteer support that were much needed. Decreased funding had occurred as a result of the economic recession of the early 1990s. Soon after, tax-exempt status was obtained, a board of directors was recruited, a president was named and raising funds began.

Foundation for BCPL Mission

The Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library mobilizes resources to support the Library's commitments.

Foundation Objectives

  • To provide funding for projects that encourage children and young adults to cultivate a lifelong enthusiasm for reading and learning.
  • To act as advocates for the library to ensure that library services continue on into the future.
  • To raise funds for specific programs or projects that enhance system-wide Baltimore County Library goals and objectives.

What the Foundation Has Accomplished

Between 1999 and 2007, the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library has provided funding for a large number of projects appealing to the library users and library staff. Some of the largest fund-raising projects include:

  • Updated, more comfortable furniture for all library branches.
  • The Read Rover Plus bookmobile – a “library on wheels” used for visits to day-care and at-risk communities.
  • Updating computer technology in branches throughout Baltimore County.
  • My First Library Card Campaign which helped almost 7,000 kindergartners and preschoolers across the county sign up for their first library card and provided a book and a backpack to each child.

Ongoing Foundation Initiative

Storyville at BCPL, designed by James Bradberry Architects, is the latest project to be funded by the Foundation for BCPL. This interactive early learning center, located at the Rosedale Branch of BCPL, hosts seven interactive play stations where infants and preschoolers can explore and grow while engaging in developmentally appropriate activities. Books and activities at each site promote cognitive, motor, language and social skills, depending on the age group.

This free, museum-like service encourages children in the greater Baltimore area and their caregivers to explore the interactive exhibits featured in a unique townscape. The townscape features a variety of innovative activity areas such as: a baby garden consisting of manipulative toys, mobiles, and board books; a fully stocked children's library; a theatre, complete with changeable marquee, costumes, and props; and other unique play and learning areas. Appropriate reading materials at different reading levels are placed at each learning area for the children.

Storyville at the Rosedale Branch has proven to be wildly successful. As of March 2010, there have been over 153,000 visitors from more than 100 ZIP codes around the region. Indeed, just for the twenty-seven days during the month of February that Storyville was open for business, there were 7,125 visitors. Of these, 1,827 were first time visitors.

This over $700,000 project was funded through a combination of financial pledges from corporate, individual, and non-profit organizations. In addition, as part of House Bill 51, the State of Maryland's consolidated fiscal year 2007 capital budget, a $250,000 allocation was included for the benefit of the Storyville Children’s Learning Center. At the beginning of the 2007 session of the Maryland General Assembly, Senator Kathy Klausmeier (D-8-Baltimore County) introduced Senate Bill 264 and Delegate Todd Schuler (D-8-Baltimore County) introduced a corresponding bill, House Bill 360, in the House of Delegates. These bills requested a grant of $250,000 to the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library, Inc. for the construction of the Storyville Children’s Learning Center at the Rosedale Public Library. The funds received under the provision of HB 51 were added to money that was raised by the Foundation for the Baltimore County Public Library from private sources and individuals to cover the construction costs.

Since the Rosedale Storyville has proven to be so popular, Baltimore County government and the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library engaged James Bradberry Architects to design a second Storyville at the Woodlawn Branch of BCPL. "Storyville West" opened on March 1, 2010. Having seen firsthand the positive impact that the existing Storyville has had for the community of Rosedale, Woodlawn stands to gain a great deal through having a Storyville of its own.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]