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 and headquarted in Towson, Maryland BCPL serves Baltimore County, Maryland, which surrounds but does not include the city of Baltimore. Still, occasionally the two library branches share resources and expertise.
BCPL has 19 branch locations. BCPL's Mobile Library Services operates 4 bookmobiles, with the two largest branches at Catonsville and North Point, while fulfilling environmental and sustainable goals. 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, meaning that many of these communities have a BCPL branch located within them.
BCPL offers a wide variety of services, with its branches offering 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, are Wi-Fi accessible, and 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.
- 1 History
- 2 Public services
- 3 Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The BCPL System from the 1940s until the 1970s
In 1948, the BCPL system was established by combining "twelve independent libraries into one system," each of which was "started by a private association to meet public needs," with most of them organizing by the 1940s, but the current branches in Reistertown, Sparrows Point, founded with space provided by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Towson, and Relay, opened before 1936, with all the others opening sometime after 1940. This new library system had a Board of Trustees to consolidate these 12 independent libraries. By October of the same year, an administrative office had opened, at its temporary location sitting on Towson's 120 West Pennsylvania Avenue and a county librarian, Richard D. Minnich, was appointed. The following year, the Cockeysville Branch of the BCPL had moved to a space in the "former Zink residence" which was a "small house located near the Cockeysville School" and sitting on York Road.
By the 1950s, the BCPL system began to change. The Arbutus Branch of the BCPL moved itself into a larger space above an A&P supermarket," just like the branch in Pikesville, while the Parkville community, until 1952, continued to host an independent library which eventually moved to the basement of Saint Ursula's Church. When the Parkville Library closed its doors, the BCPL started to provide library services to the community using a bookmobile.
Jumping forward to the 1960s, the BCPL branches improved by leaps and bounds. In 1961, the Parkville Branch opened at rented quarters, the Cockeysville Branch opened in a "3,000 square feet building," and the Reistertown Branch, which occupies a building dating back to the 1820s when it was Franklin Academy, was created. In the following years there were more improvements. For one, in 1962, the Arbutus Branch moved to a "more modern building" on Sulphur Spring Road, and the year after that, the current Catonsville Branch was dedicated on a site which was "rumored to have been Castle Thunder, home of English businessman Richard Caton and Polly Carroll," the latter who was the daughter of Charles Carroll, a singer of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The same year, the original Perry Hall Branch opened on Belair Road. Many years later, in January 1968, the Cockeysville Branch "was expanded...to an 11,000 square foot facility."
In the 1970s, the BCPL system again expanded. In January of 1971, the Parkville-Carney Branch opened at its current location, renamed from the Parkville Branch after "an appeal by residents of Carney to show that both communities were served by the facility. Years later, in May 1974, the current structure which comprises the Towson Branch was constructed, which is in a brutalist style.
The BCPL System in the 1980s and 1990s
In the 1980s the library system again changed with the times. In February 1982, the Cockeyville Branch opened at its current location, being one "of the first libraries in the nation featuring open-face bookstore display shelving and neon signage." The same year the Pikesville Branch opened on the Pikesville Community Center's first level, a building which currently "houses a senior center and a health center" as well. The following year, the PTA of Hereford High School initiated the idea for a library in the Northern part of Baltimore County. In later years, the Towson Branch would be recognized for its accomplishments. In 1985, the Baltimore City Paper would give the branch the "Best Library award" and the year after that the County Executive would recognize the branch for its "outstanding contributions" to the community. Two years later, in 1988, the Hereford Branch opened "on the first floor of the Hereford Center building" with Dennis Rasmussen, then County Executive and Dutch Ruppersberger, then a County Councilman, cutting the ribbon to open the facility. The same year the White Marsh Branch opened in "15,000 square-foot" facility, which is within the current White Marsh Town Center.
In the 1990s, there were further changes. The Towson Branch was expanded in 1990, becoming a "landmark building in the heart of Towson." The same year all branches of the BCPL were closed for Staff Day. In later years, the Reisterstown Branch was renovated, in 1995, with an expanded "parking lot and a 1,800 square foot addition," and the Heidelbach Memorial Garden, in the Catonsville Branch, was dedicated after a push by the Catonsville Garden Club.
The BCPL System in the 21st Century
In the 2000s numerous BCPL branches expanded. In 2001 the Towson Branch added a "medieval castle with arched windows, turrets and a majestic entrance" in the children's area of the library to, hopefully, "make more families decide to spend their together time at the library rather than at a mall." The following year, the Hereford Branch expanded "to 7,500 square feet" and extended operating hours 2006, with the Pikeville Branch expanded with a "$3.6 million expansion and renovation" and re-opened in July of 2007. In 2009, the existing Perry Hall Branch "was replaced by the current 25,000 square foot green building" which currently sits on Honeygo Boulevard and the Cockeysville Branch was renovated.
In recent years, the library had continued to make adjustments. In 2010, the Perry Hall Branch added a reading garden which includes "benches, sculptures...a picturesque view of the small nearby pond" and a walkway that is "made of recycled materials from the renovation of the North Point Branch plaza" the same year. Also that year, the Arbutus Branch moved to a new $11 million "library, community center and senior center" on Sulphur Spring Road, which is a 25,000 square foot space and is a certified LEED silver building. The following year, the Baltimore Sun reported that an FBI agent, Kyra M. Dressler, "asked a federal judge to sign search warrants for computers and hard drives in the Baltimore County Public Library's branches in Woodlawn and Catonsville," where a Nicaraguan-born man, who they suspected of being a "terrorist," named Antonio Martinez, had reportedly used a computer. On a more positive note, the same year "a $30 million, six-story building" which houses the Owings Mills Branch and the "center for the Community College of Baltimore County" began to be constructed, and was completed in 2013.
In 2013, the BCPL recorded "nearly 5 million in-person visits, circulated nearly 10.6 million items, set a record of over 48,400 participants in our Summer Reading Club, and added nearly 20,000 new cardholders" in the previous years. The following year, the Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball was established at the new Owings Mills Branch, opened only the year before, a free museum which is "open during all library operating hours" and has exhibits and historical displays of "Maryland and U.S. Negro Leagues." In September of the same year Richard William Parsons, a librarian who had worked in the BCPL library system since 1962, died. Due to the snowstorm that year, in March, all BCPL branches were closed.
Also in 2014, Kevin Kamenetz proposed a controversial plan for shifting IT positions within the BCPL system. His budget involved the transfer of 28 positions within the system "to the county's Office of Information Technology (OIT) starting July 1" with administration officials saying it would make the government "more efficient" with no cuts in jobs, but library advocates across the state worried that this did not follow due process and sets a bad precedent. Ultimately, Rob Stradling, head of the County's OIT admitted that library officials were not fully informed, saying "communication was probably not as good as it should've been," while he added that procedures would be put in place in the future to make sure such mis-communication did not occur. In lighter news, Paula Miller, formerly the head of the Pikes Peak Library District in El Paso County, Colorado, was chosen as the new administrator of the BCPL library system. Not only was she "the first woman to serve in that role" but she was the fourth director of the system since 1948.
In 2015 and 2016, the Hereford Branch's renovation was sped up. In July 2015, a broken water pipe damaged the interior of the Branch, closing it for one year so it could "undergo the $3 million extensive renovation and expansion," and it was reopened in June 2016 with increased space for "books, computers and meeting areas," covering a total of 15,000 square feet, including "self-service kiosks for checking out books, several computers for public use, a bar with outlets for laptop use," among other aspects.
The BCPL library system provides many public services. These include foreign language materials, local history resources, online databases, showing of films within library branches, and much more, in an effort to generate community participation.
Foreign languages and local history
Numerous foreign language resources are available across the library system. At the Cockeysville, Parkville, and Towson branches, Korean fiction and non-fiction books for adults and children are available, while the Pikesville, Randallstown and Reisterstown branches, Russian materials for adults and children can be found. At all branches, Spanish children's books, mainly picture books, in Spanish and bi-lingual Spanish and English can be found, while at the Catonsville, Essex, North Point, and Towson branches Spanish collections of fiction and non-fiction for adults and older children can be requested. As of 2016, the Rosetta Stone program is "available for free" within BCPL branches.
Local history can be accessed across the library system. A growing collection of local historic photographs with annotations are included in Legacy Web, Baltimore County Public Library's online photo archive, with these photographs covering 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. 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 can be used within specific branches and are sometimes accessible with prior appointment at the appropriate BCPL branch.
Databases and movie showings
Many databases are available to patrons across the BCPL library system. A variety of online databases are available for use, which include information on health, business, homework topics, and test preparation. Most databases provide access to articles in magazines, newspapers, and encyclopedias and can be used for research, schoolwork or other needs since they can be accessed from a BCPL branch or from home, work or school through the official BCPL website with a BCPL card. Such services are accompanied by "public computers, free WiFi, laptop bars with charging stations...study rooms, a quiet reading room...single use and collaborative workspaces" at Randallstown and other BCPL branches. The BCPL has also partnered with the Baltimore County Bar Association to host a "Baltimore County Pro Bono Day" at BCPL's Owings Mills Branch to discuss legal problems with a volunteer attorney. Additionally, the BCPL had partnered with WBAL-TV to promote reading for the "2017 Baltimore County Public Library Reading Challenge."
Current Hollywood films, documentary and non-documentary, are sometimes shown within branches of the BCPL to the broader community. In March 2017, the Arbutus, Loch Raven, North Point, Pikesville, Reisterstown, Rosedale, Towson, and Woodlawn BCPL branches invited the public (and general community) to view, free-of-charge, Ava DuVernay's documentary 13TH, which explores "ties between slavery, the current mass incarceration of African Americans and the profits of the prison-industrial complex," which was followed by "a guided discussion." One administrator, Julie Brophy, was quoted as saying that "public libraries are a safe space for conversation and thoughtful discourse on the most challenging topics. Providing the opportunity for our community to view Ava DuVernay’s 13TH and then talk about issues that impact our county, state and country is an essential function of Baltimore County Public Library’s mission."
Other community activities
The BCPL also engages in varying activities to engage the community. Over the years, branches have had interactive displays about outer space, held an open house for the library system's bookmobile, allowing people to see "a behind-the-scenes look at bookmobile operations," hosting a public meeting about Baltimore Gas and Electric's rate increases, hosting cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher (KAL), and Ray Owen playing before a summer reading program. Other programs included an information session on BCPL's "Baby Boosters reading readiness program," working with members of the cast of Annie who performed in White Marsh Mall to promote the BCPL's summer reading program, publishing a directory of "more than 3,500 nonprofit organizations in the county," hosting a meeting in which officials from the Maryland State Highway Administration briefed residents of Dundalk on "plans to resurface and improve Merritt Boulevard from Peninsula Expressway to Wise Avenue," and having a "presentation and discussion on recent research in reading and education."
Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library
The Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library provides "funding for projects that encourage children and young adults to cultivate enthusiasm for reading and learning" such as the Storyville, My First Library Card and Summer Reading Club programs, along with raising "funds for programs or projects that enhance systemwide library goals and objectives." In order to provide "additional resources to enrich the library’s commitment to empower the citizens of Baltimore County" to learn, create, connect, and explore, it is registered 501(c)(3) organization.
In particular, the Storyville program, created with the funding of the Foundation, BCPL, State of Maryland, and private sources, has been a resounding success. Designed and created "to foster early literacy and school readiness skills," it serves as a place "where books and purposeful play come together to provide valuable experiences that nurture young children and support parents and caregivers." It is located at the Woodlawn and Rosedale Branches of the BCPL. Jim Fish, the longtime administrator of the BCPL, who retired in 2014, also counts "the library's work on early childhood services among his most important accomplishments" which includes the Storyville program.
In July 2010, the president of the Foundation, Jeffrey Smith, wrote a letter to the editors of the Baltimore Sun, stating that the addition the Cockeysville Branch would "allow for an increase in total public space in this library while also offering the chance to improve and maximize overall public accessibility" and that such improvements are only the "most recent in a series of investments in the system," and arguing that despite the fact that the times are "economically challenging," libraries are vital, and thanked residents of the county and local elected officials for having "the foresight to ensure sufficient funding to support this growth in use." He further argued that this meant that there was "recognition of the importance of libraries as an essential public service will allow BCPL to continue to effectively respond to the increasing needs of Baltimore County citizens."
In 2014, the vice president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, Christine Crawford, who had joined the Chamber of Commerce in July 2005 and represents the chamber in many capacities, became a board member of the foundation. At the time, the president of the Foundation, Jeffrey Smith, welcomed Crawford, saying that "it is truly an honor to welcome" her to the board and that he was "confident that her enthusiasm, extensive connections and civic-minded spirit will be invaluable assets as our organization continuously broadens its capacity to support the good works" of the BCPL library system.
- Maryland State Archives,[Maryland Manual: Baltimore County, Maryland http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/36loc/bco/html/bcoe.html#library], February 22, 2017.
- Maryland State Archives,Baltimore County, Maryland: Public Library, September 29, 2015.
- Baltimore City is served by the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
- Mary Gill Hare, "Pratt and Balto Co. libraries to share nearly $1 million bequest," Baltimore Sun, July 08, 2011.
- Explore Baltimore Heritage Team, "North Point Branch - Baltimore County Public Library", April 5, 2016
- Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), Maryland Green Application: Baltimore County Public Library, April 2016. MDE is not the same as Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
- BCPL, "Map of Library Locations," July 14, 2015.
- There are branches in Arbutus, Catonsville, Cockeysville, Essex, Hereford, Lansdowne, Loch Raven, North Point, Owings Mills, Parkville-Carney, Perry Hall, Pikesville, Randallstown, Reisterstown,Rosedale, Sollers Point,Towson, White Marsh, and Woodlawn. There is also Mobile Library Services as part of the BCPL system.
- Lorraine Mirabella, "Eggspectation will open at Metro Centre at Owings Mills next year," Baltimore Sun, August 22, 2014.
- Baltimore Sun, "Towson to help library system debut 'cloud' service for e-Books," August 30, 2012.
- Phyllis Brill, "Where to find information on AIDS for children," Baltimore Sun, November 12, 1991.
- Baltimore Sun, "Books on looks," February 20, 1991.
- Alison Knezevich, "Balto. Co. libraries' summer reading program breaks record," Baltimore Sun, September 4, 2012.
- BCPL, Ask a Question, 2017.
- BCPL participates in the Maryland AskUsNow! chat reference service staffed 24/7 by Maryland librarians or librarians nationwide.
- Lynn Wheeler, "Baltimore County Public Library's Early History," 1948. Material for this webpage derives from "The Public Library, Baltimore County, Maryland, Annual Report, 1948."
- These libraries were located in 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.
- BCPL, "Cockeysville Branch, History: About This Branch," October 25, 2016.
- BCPL, "Arbutus Branch, History: About This Branch," December 15, 2016.
- BCPL, "Parkville-Carney Branch, History: About This Branch," January 23, 2017.
- BCPL, "Pikesville Branch, History: About This Branch," March 17, 2017.
- BCPL, "Reisterstown Branch, History: About This Branch," December 20, 2016.
- BCPL, "Catonsville Branch, History: About This Branch," October 5, 2016.
- BCPL, "Perry Hall Branch, History: About This Branch," March 21, 2017.
- Shelley Silwick, "Perry Hall library celebrates 50 years in the books," Baltimore Sun, September 9, 2013.
- BCPL, "Towson Branch, History: About This Branch," December 9, 2016.
- Loni Ingram, "Towson Library celebrates 40 years at current site on May 17," Baltimore Sun, May 15, 2014.
- BCPL, "Hereford Branch, History: About This Branch," February 24, 2017.
- BCPL, "White Marsh Branch, History: About This Branch," March 21, 2017.
- Baltimore Sun, "Staff Day to close county's libraries," October 3, 1990.
- In the Heidelbach Memorial Garden, "each panel depicts a scene from a children's literature classic and was created by the students of Hillcrest, Maiden Choice, Catonsville Middle, Saint Mark's, Westowne, Saint Agnes, Saint Paul, and Delrey schools."
- Lynn Anderson, "Reading in a fantasy world," Baltimore Sun, May 13, 2001.
- Nick Madigan, "Man accused in Catonsville bomb plot urged holy war, feds say," Baltimore Sun, February 10, 2011. The article adds that FBI agents watched him, reportedly, as he "pulled up jihadist videos on computers in Baltimore County libraries," accessing "the Internet about 481 times at county libraries, and remained logged on an average of one to two hours" even losing access to "the library computers because he had failed to pay a $10.50 fine," but solved this by borrowing "his stepfather's library card."
- Raven L. Hill, "Start of Owings Mills development raises hopes," Baltimore Sun, July 28, 2011.
- James H. Fish, "Balto. Co. library is more vibrant than ever," Baltimore Sun, April 23, 2013. The writer is director of the Baltimore County Public Library.
- Similarly, the Towson Branch "chalked up 475,495 visits" and was described by the Baltimore Sun as "one of the busiest branches in the BCPL system."
- BCPL, Owings Mills Branch, 2017.
- BCPL, "Community: The Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball," February 18, 2016.
- Jim Joyner, "County library at Owings Mills' Metro Centre slated to open March 21," Baltimore Sun, March 11, 2013.
- Baltimore Sun, "Opening day at Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball in Owings Mills," March 27, 2014.
- Arthur Hirsch, "Negro Leagues museum to play bigger crowds in Baltimore County," Baltimore Sun, November 20, 2013.
- Jacques Kelly, "Richard W. Parsons, Baltimore County librarian," Baltimore Sun, September 17, 2014.
- Baltimore Sun, "Baltimore-area attractions closed due to snow," March 3, 2014.
- Alison Knezevich, "Librarians question Baltimore County plan to shift IT positions," Baltimore Sun, May 21, 2014.
- Alison Knezevich, "New Baltimore County libraries chief named," Baltimore Sun, May 2, 2014.
- A small collection of entertainment or feature DVDs in Russian for adults are available at the Pikesville and Reisterstown branches.
- Books and CDs for learning foreign languages are available at all branches and can be found in the non-fiction section of the branch.
- WMAR-TV, "Rosetta Stone now available for free at Baltimore County Public Library," September 1, 2016.
- Ann Lee, "Helping patrons explore history in Catonsville," Baltimore Sun, June 16, 2003.
- "Franklin Academy - Baltimore County Public Library," Digital Maryland, 2017.
- Julie Scharper, "Monumental mystery, potential answer," Baltimore Sun, February 8, 2014.
- "Baltimore County Public Library," libraries.org.
- Baltimore County Public Library: Research Databases & Tools, BCPL, January 9, 2017.
- Baltimore County Government, "Construction begins on $1.1 million total renovation of Randallstown Library Branch," February 6, 2017.
- Baltimore County Pro Bono Day, The People's Law Library of Maryland, 2017.
- WBAL-TV, "Baltimore County Public Library Partners with WBAL-TV 11 for reading challenge," December 27, 2016.
- Baltimore Times, "Baltimore County Public Library to Screen Oscar-Nominated 13TH at Multiple Locations in Late March", March 22, 2017.
- WMAR Staff, "Baltimore Co. libraries hold free screenings of "13th"", WMAR-TV News, March 27, 2017.
- Kim Brynes, "library patrons explore final frontier in Discover Space exhibit," Baltimore Sun, September 7, 2014.
- Mary Gail Hare, "Bookmobile holds open house in Dundalk," The Baltimore Sun, April 14, 2011.
- Jamie Smith Hopkins, "Public feedback sought at meetings about BGE cases," Baltimore Sun, November 1, 2013.
- Sharon Rydell, "Cartoonist KAL comes to Pikesville Library for book signing," Baltimore Sun, April 8, 2013.
- Baltimore Sun, "Songwriter to help launch library's summer program," June 18, 2000.
- Baltimore Sun, "Program on prereading set for library branch NORTH," February 11, 2001.
- Baltimore Sun, "In Baltimore County 'Annie' cast members to perform at," June 04, 2000.
- Baltimore Sun, "Library updates guide," January 21, 1991.
- Candy Thomson, "State to hold briefing on Dundalk road upgrades," Baltimore Sun, November 25, 2012.
- Baltimore Sun, Research in reading to be discussed at Cockeysville, January 7, 2001.
- Baltimore Sun, "County chamber VP is new member of Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library," February 28, 2014. Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library Press Release.
- [oundation for Baltimore County Public Library Homepage http://www.foundationforbcpl.org/], accessed March 27, 2017.
- BCPL, "About Storyville," September 23, 2016.
- James Bradberry Architects, "Storyville: Baltimore, MD," 2017.
- Baltimore Sun, "Woodlawn library Storyville closes for two-day project," July 15, 2014.
- Alison Knezevich, "Jim Fish closes the book on career at Baltimore County Public Library," Baltimore Sun, July 31, 2014.
- Jeffrey Smith, "Balto. Co. wise to invest in its libraries," Baltimore Sun, July 1, 2010.