Friday, March 14 – Old OC Library is Left for the Birds

OCEAN CITY – The old Ocean City Library is sitting empty now, except for the unofficial residents, the sparrows that have been nesting in the rafters of the library’s portico for years.

“They’re building their nests and they’re probably going to be laying eggs in a few weeks or so,” said library associate Meg Arnold, who is hoping that the resort will wait until the nestlings are fledged before tearing down the obsolete building.

The sparrows have been nesting there for years, according to long time Ocean City Library personnel.

Arnold said she has seen several pairs of sparrows making themselves at home in the portico roof this spring.

“The portico is metal and has steel beams hollowed out. There’s at least six families building nests in there,” Arnold said. “They’ve been doing it since anybody can remember. They come back every year.”

With the recent move of books, equipment and personnel to the new Ocean City Library building on 100th St. complete, the empty 42 year-old library building on 14th St. is due to be demolished this spring to make way for a parking lot.

Ocean City Public Works director Hal Adkins said he was unaware of the sparrows nesting at the now defunct Ocean City Library building.

“I would have never even considered that there were birds nesting in the portico,” said Adkins. “I had no idea.”

His plans to go to the Ocean City Town Council and ask for approval to proceed in the next two weeks are unchanged by the news, however.

“In all honesty, it’s not something I’d even take into account unless it was a rare or endangered species,” Adkins said. “We would move forward with our project anyway.”

Adkins hopes to start demolition work on the empty library building by the beginning of April. Given no weather delays, he expects to complete the demolition of the structure and the work to repurpose the land for more parking in four weeks.

Work would begin inside the building, Adkins said, with workers stripping out inside fittings like fixed furniture and ceiling tiles, giving the sparrows a few more weeks to stay on the nest.

Once the inside of the old Ocean City library is gutted back to bricks, blocks and steel, however, the obsolete structure will be demolished. The demolition will clear the way for more parking, a commodity often in short supply during the summer tourist season.

The metal and other debris will be recycled, with the bricks and cement block crushed for road repair work.

Workers will then grade and fill the 45 parking space lot, and then cover the dirt with gravel to provide parking spaces for the summer.

“We’re going to try to save the perimeter trees,” Adkins said.

The restricted 20-minute street parking in front of the building, used by library patrons to return books, will revert to regular parking status. The nearby bus stop will not be affected.

Adkins said the lot would be reassessed in the fall, with an eye towards permanent paving.         

The lot, which adjoins the Ocean City firehouse to the north, is the future site of a water desalinization plant. Pipes were laid underground for that purpose 14 years ago, and it may be another 14 or more before the desalinization plant is needed, Adkins said.   

The request to demolish the old library could go before the Ocean City Town Council as early as this Monday, March 17.

The sparrows, though small, may try to defend their nests.

“If you go outside, the boy birds fly towards you and try to shoo you away,” Arnold said.