County Library Board Slows Tiered Seating Proposal At Berlin Branch

OCEAN PINES – Discussions on a roof replacement project at the Ocean Pines branch, a tiered seating system at the Berlin branch and a fine forgiveness proposal highlighted this month’s meeting of the Worcester County Library Board of Trustees.

On Tuesday, library officials briefed the board on several events and projects happening at various branches through the library system.


Ocean Pines Branch Project Move Forward

Library Director Jennifer Ranck told the board this week she expected construction work at the Ocean Pines branch to finish later than anticipated.

“We think the expected completion date is mid-February to the end of February,” she said.

In October, work began on a months-long project to install a new roof and remove the front- and rear-facing chimneys at the Ocean Pines library. Additional building updates included a new HVAC system and repairs to the large meeting room and vaulted ceiling in the adult fiction and non-fiction sections.

While library officials originally anticipated work to conclude by January or early February, Ranck said efforts to remove the building’s chimneys – which were the source of various water leaks at the library – were moving at a slower pace.

“It’s taken them a little bit longer,” she said.

Ranck said she is also looking to replace carpeting in the two meeting rooms and window treatments throughout the library.

“We are seeing if we can come up with the funding to do that,” she said.

Despite the delay, library staff said they were pleased with how the project has proceeded.

Branch Manager Harry Burkett said the library has received very few complaints.

“It couldn’t have gone more smoothly because most people in the area knew this was coming and they were eager to see it done,” he said.


Tiered Seating At Berlin Library Questioned

Members of the board this week also deliberated on an opportunity to install a tiered seating system in the meeting and performance room of the new Berlin branch.

Ranck said the Worcester County Library Foundation has raised enough money to purchase a custom-made tiered seating system – which features retractable rows of benches – for the library.

“When we were talking about why we needed the library, one of the things we talked about was adding performance space and adding a meeting room …,” she said. “This might enable us to have larger performances and different programming. I see it as a definite opportunity for the library.”

While board members were provided drawings and schematics of the seating system, Board President Ron Cascio questioned how the seating would operate. He noted that the rows of benches must be pulled out manually when used.

“My big concern is the operation of it,” he said. “I’m uncomfortable spending that kind of money on something that’s going to be there forever, and I don’t know how it operates.”

Cascio also questioned how much floor space it would occupy.

“It’s a lot of money for a lot of floorspace that may pay off,” he said.

Ranck said the tiered system would increase seating capacity to more than 150 people.

“It would make the event a little bit nicer because then your visibility would improve,” she said.

Board members, however, agreed they did not want to make a decision on the foundation’s investment until they were given a demonstration of how the seating system worked.

“We just need more information before we commit to something,” Cascio said. “We would be remiss if we made that investment with what little information we have.”


Fine Forgiveness Supported

Ranck also presented the board this week with a proposal to reduce library fines in exchange for a personal care donation.

“We’ve often done things where if you bring in a can or box of food you can reduce the number of fines,” she said. “I thought it might be good for us to, instead of doing a food drive, do a personal care item and donate those items to different things like Diakonia, Good Samaritan.”

Ranck said the initiative would fall in line with a series of civility programs being offered at the library during the month of April.

“I’m requesting permission from the board because it does impact some of the fine money we may get,” she said. “But it’s a really nice way for people to reduce those fines and help a good cause.”

The board agreed.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Cascio said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.