After more than year closed, Mount Rainier’s little library branch has re-opened. During a standing-room-only grand-opening ceremony held Jan. 27, 2020, city officials hailed the library – officially named the Karl A. Young Library after a longtime local fire chief who died suddenly – as an essential, beloved public space for the community.
“This represents what we are striving for in Mount Rainier,” said Mayor Malinda Miles during the ceremony. “It speaks volumes to what a city and staff and mayor and council can do when they have partnerships.”
The library is unique in Prince George’s County that the building is owned and maintained by the city of Mount Rainier, which allows the library system to operate within. After years of deferred maintenance, Mount Rainier’s library closed in the fall of 2018 after officials with the library system and the librarian union said they could no longer staff workers at the branch due to a variety of issues, including the presence of asbestos, roof leaks, an inoperable emergency exit and security issues that made it hard for staff to monitor the facility. The closure of the library was shocking to nearby residents, who feared the library system might not re-open the branch. In response, an overflow crowd at a February 2019 City Council meeting appealed to library and city officials to find a way to re-open the branch.
In all, it cost about $100,000 to bring the library back online. $50,000 of that came from Annapolis by way of a funding measure sponsored by Mount Rainier’s legislative representatives, Senator Malcolm Augustine and Del. Julian Ivey. Mount Rainier covered about $30,000, while a grant from Maryland Energy Administration through PEPCO paid for the other approximately $20,000.
Councilor Celina Benitez, noting that it was a challenge to assemble the different funding sources, said city officials are committed to keeping up maintenance on the building so it does not again fall into disrepair.
“We need to make sure there is money allocated in the capital improvement fund to continue to make sure that our buildings are assured,” said Benitez. “In case something is needed, we will get through it as it comes, instead of what we did – having to find close to $100,000 to do it all at once.”
Where the space formerly was crammed with rows of books, the new library has significantly-less shelf space., but has significantly-expanded computer access. Councilor Bryan Knedler said this is a reaction to dramatic changes over the past 30 years in how libraries are used: instead of being a repository for books, they are increasingly full-fledged community centers designed to provide access to information in both digital and tangible forms. City officials plan to make the library a “Census hub” over the next year, a place where residents can come in and make sure they’re counted during the decennial tally. The new library also features upgraded, low-energy LED lighting, a new security system, and re-furbished bathrooms. Also, in partnership with Joe’s Movement Emporium, library officials said a mural will be added to adorn the inside walls of the library.
“The old library was stuffed with shelves,” said Knedler. “We took the opportunity to modernize the programming of the library as well.”