BERLIN – Planning is underway for a new Berlin library to be built on Harrison Avenue.
Mark Thomas, director of the Worcester County Library, said land for the new building has been purchased and an architect has started putting together details of the building and its features.
“It’s the basic planning of the building and where it sits on the site,” Thomas said.
Worcester County purchased a 6.11-acre piece of land on Harrison Avenue for $430,000 last year, according to Kim Moses, the county’s public information officer. In the fall, county officials accepted a proposal from architect Jeff Schoellkopf and JSD Inc. of The Design Group to perform pre-design services at a cost of $39,000.
Thomas said that work was expected to last another month or two, after which library officials will seek funding for a complete building design.
“We’re still in the planning stages,” he said.
Nevertheless, some ideas for the new facility have taken shape. Thomas said the building would be about 10,000 square feet, making it smaller than the 16,000-square-foot library in Ocean Pines but significantly larger than the existing 3,000-square-foot Berlin library, and that it would include meeting space, a children’s area and staff work space. The decades-old Berlin library has none of those.
While patrons want space for those activities, Thomas said they also wanted the library to retain its friendly feel.
“They realize the building will be bigger but they didn’t want it to lose the intimacy that characterizes the Berlin library,” he said.
Thomas said making the library energy efficient was also a key goal. He says close attention will be paid to how space and energy are managed.
“We hope we can be a model for other buildings,” he said. “We want it to be as thoughtfully and creatively designed as possible.”
Once the new library is built, the well-known community garden outside the existing facility will continue at the new site. With the help of local gardeners, the community vegetable patch demonstrates sustainable gardening to the public. The produce that’s grown is donated to Diakonia and Stevenson United Methodist Church.
“That’s been very successful,” Thomas said.
He says the six-acre site will provide more than ample space for the library’s plans.
“We want to use the front part of it [for the library] so it’ll be visible from Main Street,” he said.
Because the site is just behind the existing library, which is located on Berlin Fire Company property, Thomas pointed out that patrons won’t even have to adjust their routes to the library. He said potential locations for a new building were limited in Berlin and the Harrison Avenue parcel was chosen because of its proximity to the downtown area.
“It’s important for it to be in the extended downtown area,” he said. “We want it to be walkable, bikeable and visible.”
Thomas is hesitant to say when library-goers can expect to see construction begin on the new facility. He says planning could take the better part of 2015.
“We’re taking it at a measured and steady pace,” he said. “We’re eager to get it done but we want to do it right.”