The Howard County Library System Central Branch Library is in Columbia. (TBM / Jason Whong)

The first of a series of in-person and virtual community meetings to gather community feedback on the location and design of the Howard County Library System’s new Central Branch kicked off on Feb. 27 at Howard Community College’s Galleria.

The meetings, hosted by Howard County Government and its design consultant, Arcadis, present five locations that will be considered.

The sites include the existing Central Branch site; the originally proposed site in the Merriweather District on Dove Sail Lane; the vacant Lord & Taylor building at The Mall in Columbia; the Lakefront One Site at the Lakefront parking lot next to Whole Foods; and the Lakefront Two Site, currently occupied by the low-rise Cross Keys Inn buildings next to the Merriweather Lakehouse Hotel.

Following the initial public engagement phase of a study being conducted by Arcadis, the focus will move on to programming for the new library in Phase 2, which will also include public engagement and stakeholder interviews.

“We will also work on the technical requirements, a full parking and traffic study of the entire Downtown Columbia area, and we will work up budget estimates,” said Bob Jones, associate vice president of Arcadis. 

Howard County Government is planning to release an online survey that focuses on programming and what patrons want to do and see at the Central Branch Library. 

A number of residents at the first meeting observed that the overwhelming majority of attendees was nearly 70 years old and White. They also expressed concern that the county did not publicize the meetings well enough or even post information about it within the libraries themselves, where library users would see it.

Columbia resident Joan Lancos was among those who held out hope that a more representative mix of residents would attend upcoming input sessions. “Families and young people are among the library’s biggest users and they should be providing their input,” she said.

Future meetings to solicit public input will be held:

  • Thursday, March 14, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., In-Person at HCC’s Monteabaro Recital Hall
  • Saturday, March 16, Noon to 2:00 p.m., In-Person at HCC’s Galleria
  • Thursday, March 21, 6:00 p.m., Virtually. Registration for this meeting is required HERE.

An interpreter for people who are deaf or hard of hearing will be available if requested seven working days prior to the in-person meetings. Please call the Office of Public Information at 410-313-2022 (voice) or use Relay at 7-1-1, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.