At first, it was just a dream. But when community conversations got going in Elkridge, that dream became solid plans for a 21st-century education center now being added to the Howard County Library System’s (HCLS) Elkridge location.

“We researched what else was in place across the nation,” said Christie Lassen, HCLS spokesperson, “then we talked with our staff and with our community.”

What they found was the growing trend of the “do-it-yourself” (or DIY) movement, through which people create, build and repair things without always relying on others. “We asked ourselves: How do we capitalize on that?” said Lassen.

The Elkridge Branch’s DIY Education Center will offer a DIY collection that includes small tools for home projects, bicycle repair kits and more. Library patrons can check out tools free of charge. The DIY Center will also house a Design Institute that features a series of DIY classes for students of all ages, as well as a Design Studio offering a “mess-friendly” classroom and workspace.

Overall, the $33.1 million project will enable the library to more than double in size and, in addition to the DIY center, will offer more computers and study rooms, conference rooms, children’s and high-tech classrooms, study areas, a cafe and a business center.

For Everyone

The new library will benefit the entire county, said Valerie Gross, HCLS president and CEO. “The DIY Collection, for example, that could be a major benefit to 20-somethings who are just building their collection of small tools for their yards, as well as those who are older in the county, perhaps downsizing and have gotten rid of their arsenal of tools. Many people will be able to rely on our DIY collection,” she said.

When someone comes to the library in need of a tool such as a trowel, hedge trimmer or bicycle repair kit, they can not only check out the tools, they also learn how to use them. People can also enroll in classes to learn skills such as wallpapering and caulking, and children will be able to paint or work on crafts.

“It’s going to be an area where you can roll up your sleeves and work on projects together,” Gross said.

Filling the Void

There has been a longstanding need in the Elkridge community for an improved library space, said Howard County Councilmember Jon Weinstein. “I’m very excited about the new library, a space that is modern, open and very useful to the citizenry in the area.”

“It’s a perfect complement to the other projects that have gone on the last few years,” said Weinstein. “We are keeping pace with the growing and changing need for libraries and gathering places.”

The project is funded the by Howard County government and grants from the Maryland State Department of Education. Designed by Grimm + Parker Architects, the new building is scheduled for completion in December 2017. The current Elkridge Branch closed June 1, and an interim “express” branch has opened on Montgomery Road near Landing Middle School.

Currently 15,200 square feet, the new branch, located at the intersection of Route 1 and Rowanberry Drive, will expand to 35,000 square feet. The number of available parking spaces will increase from 108 to 166.

The county library system is ranked as one of the top five most cost-effective library systems in the country. The Central and East Columbia branches are also being renovated.

Brand New Workplace

For Phil Lord, Elkridge Branch manager, the new library will bring new opportunities to the community — and a new workplace every day for him. “I’ve been there since 1993 when the original building opened,” he said. “I remember when people borrowed less than 15,000 items per month and we grew to over 60,000 items per month. I’m happy about that.”

The HCLS celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. As part of the anniversary observation, a time capsule — enclosed in a 31-inch-tall cylinder — was installed at the Central Branch. The capsule is nested in the center of a circular bench in the Central Branch’s lobby, and contains items such as an audiobook, a Maryland flag, copies of newspapers, and the written reflections of middle schoolers who served as “guardians” and designers of the time capsule.

Years from now, perhaps long after all the county’s libraries have been renovated, anyone who opens the time capsule will get a taste of the current times. Guardians answered three questions: What are three ways you spend most of your time? What are the three most important popular current trends? What are three things you like most about the Howard County Library System?

For now, Phil Lord is simply looking forward to his new workplace. “I want it to open now,” he said.

Editor’s note: Just as the paper was going to print, the county released an update. Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman announced that Columbia-based Costello Construction has been awarded a $16.2 million competitive bid contract to build the new Elkridge Library and 50+ Center. Construction is expected to start within 30 days and, weather permitting, should be completed and ready for occupancy within 18 months.