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Staff looks forward to a new, bigger library

Katherine Mullen

Thurmont Library circulation clerk Beth Atwood assists Tony Yingling of Thurmont and his daughter Natalie, 13, as they search for books Saturday.

(12/6) Erin Dingle is thrilled that Frederick County has broken ground for a new Thurmont Regional Library, slated for completion in spring 2008.

But until the doors open, it is business as usual for the Thurmont library manager and her staff in the 2,000-square-foot space on Water Street. The new library building will be nearly 10 times bigger.

Since 1967, the Thurmont Regional Library has resided in the small building that once served as a Moravian church, a store and teen center.

As Thurmont has grown, the one-story library has also kept up with the times even though its physical space hasn’t changed in nearly four decades.

For Dingle and her nine-member staff, serving the community’s literary needs in a small space has been a logistical challenge. Dingle, a mainstay at the Thurmont library for 19 years, nevertheless sees the library as a community center for the family.

‘‘Libraries are one of the last places that a whole family can come," she said.

Inside the cozy library, all of the permanent shelving space is taken, Dingle said, leaving the staff to organize books on moveable carts that often block the view of other collections.

Five computers with wireless Internet are quickly occupied with adults in the morning and students after school.

For the children’s area, the staff uses one table that is only a few steps from the front door, where the staff runs its daily programming.

Barbara White, library associate for children’s services, noted that the space designated for programming affects audience participation since there’s little room to move around. Adults aren’t always able to join their children in programs, White said.

When the programming space isn’t enough for larger lectures, events or programs, the library is often forced to hold events in church halls, at the American Legion or at parks.

According to Dingle, many organizations also want to hold meetings in the library but aren’t able to because there’s simply not enough space and no meeting rooms. Over the years, the library staff has used different tactics to deal with the building’s limited space, they said. They have often required registration for events, held programs after hours or expanded programs’ time slots over several hours to regulate the flow of people into the library.

Many of the patrons are used to the library’s limitations, Dingle said, and plan their schedules accordingly to avoid the rush of students after school. The community is behind the new library, Dingle said, although some are worried that the small town atmosphere of the current library could be lost in a larger building.

‘‘I’m trying to assure everyone that as long as I’m manager that won’t happen," Dingle said. ‘‘We are going to do everything we can to maintain that small atmosphere."

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