Wicomico Library Looks To Build New Education Center

SALISBURY – The Wicomico Public Library is looking to construct an Education and Entrepreneur Center in the immediate future as well as expand branch locations in the county throughout the next 20 years.

Wicomico Public Library Executive Director Andrea Berstler presented the City Council with her department’s hopes for two projects on Monday evening.

First, Berstler proposed an Education and Entrepreneur Center at the Wicomico Public Library in downtown Salisbury.

Berstler submitted the entrepreneurial space would provide for an open, flexible space for entrepreneur-focused activities, including co-working and incubator space, business center for conferencing and meetings and an idea generating space for business brainstorming or “crowdsourcing” events.

The entrepreneurial space will also provide small business, at-home businesses and start-ups with a low overhead work and networking space, access to equipment and a small conference room space for meeting with clients or vendors as well as with potential employees.

The educational training facility will provide two classroom spaces for use in various trainings and workshops. Proposed training includes use of the classroom by Wor-Wic Adult Education classes, ESL classes, computer and coding workshops, technology and software classes and resume and job search workshops. The space will include a computer lab of 16 computers and a second classroom to accommodate approximately 40 students.

This training facility could be loaned/rented to local businesses and organizations to use for employee training. Additionally, adjacent office space will be allocated for use by Wor-Wic for Adult Education staffing and file storage. There has been interest expressed in providing a technology space within either the co-working or training space where those interested in developing a working knowledge on robotics and other higher level technology applications could network and train.

Currently, the proposed project is a partnership between Wicomico Public Library, Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development, Wor-Wic Community College and Wicomico County. The entities are looking to the City of Salisbury, Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce and Salisbury University as potential partners.

“One of the things that this conversation between your organization and city government illustrated was how committed the library is to downtown. What this community has clamored for a long time is to keep that engine in downtown Salisbury even while you grow to serve the entire metropolitan area,” Council President Jake Day said. “I think we are in a position and at a time where making some sort of support is a reasonable request where we would could find a way to partner together.”

Berstler pointed out the proposal includes the Education & Entrepreneur Center project is in need of startup capital to outfit the facility and operating expenses for basic maintenance, as well as funding for staff.

“During our FY15 budget discussions, we had talked about entrepreneurial funds. We had acknowledged the funding the county was creating, an economic development fund, which a portion of which was designed for this project. I think that conversation was something that everyone was supportive of but we were a little ahead … so I think we can certainly have that conversation again,” Day said. “In terms of supporting the entrepreneurial community, helping to start businesses, helping to keep those start-ups in our community, particularly in downtown I think is something that we are not only rhetorically considering but are wanting to do by matching the county’s efforts.”

Day said he will schedule a meeting at a City Council work session to hold a discussion among prospective partners in the project.

“This is the future for downtown Salisbury; small business entrepreneurs, and for the library to play a part in being the incubator by starting a pilot program is great. Should we get this off the ground that project will outgrow the space in the basement but we will be glad to serve as a nest to get it started,” Berstler said.

The other project Berstler presented is a multi-branch, decentralized model for the Wicomico Public Library.

In order to improve services to the residents of Wicomico County, fulfill its role in supporting education throughout the county and to provide library spaces that will serve the residents of Wicomico County for the future, Wicomico Public Library’s Board and Administration have selected a multi-branch, decentralized model for its library system, Berstler submitted.

Currently, the Wicomico Public Library is located in three locations — downtown Salisbury, Centre of Salisbury and Pittsville.

According to Berstler, a multi-branch, decentralized model library system will allow the library to build community responsive, flexible spaces that will allow the library services to grow and respond to community demands.

The proposed project timeline begins with the construction of a 12,500-square-foot Eastside Branch serving approximately 10,000 residents on the Eastside of Salisbury to be built in cooperation with Eastern Shore Regional Library from Fiscal Year 2017 to 2020.

An Eastside Branch will allow the library to better meet the needs of the schools and families that live in that community, such as Parkside and Wicomico High, Glen Avenue and Beaver Run Elementary, as well as serving Wor-Wic Community College students. This new location will serve currently under construction apartment complexes and other developments in the future plans for the eastside communities.

Berstler added there is currently an opportunity to build with the Eastern Shore Regional Library. This will mean access to meeting room spaces beyond Wicomico Public Library portions of the building expenses.

Next will be a 5,000-square-foot Pittsville Branch serving approximately 3,000 residents in the Pittsville, Parsonsburg, Willards and Powellville area from FY 2021-2023.

Wicomico Public Library has a small, established branch on the grounds of the Pittsville Elementary and Middle schools but the location is in need of a fully developed branch that will improve the library’s ability to meet the needs of the schools and families that live in that community, especially in servicing the afterschool and out of school needs. Also, to create a space where the community can meet, discuss, work and interact.

For both the Eastside and Pittsville branches, the Wicomico Public Library has a need to increase the overall available library square footage so as to properly serve the Wicomico County community. The State of Maryland recommended a minimum of 1 sq. ft. per person in the service area but the Wicomico Public Library is currently at 0.54 sq. ft. per person.

The proposed project timeline also includes a 5,000-square-foot Westside Branch serving approximately 2,500 residents in Sharptown, Quantico, Hebron and Mardela Springs area from FY 2025-2027. A 10,000-square-foot Southern Branch serving approximately 9,800 residents in Fruitland, Allen and Southern Salisbury area from FY 2028-2030. Reconstruction of the Downtown Library that will be 55,000 square feet serving approximately 75,000 residents including the Greater Salisbury area from FY 2033-2035, and the Centre Branch will continue operations within the Centre at Salisbury with 2,000 square feet serving approximately 3,000 residents of Delmar.