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“Libraries have changed so much since I was a teenager,” remarked Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman, as he joined several hundred community members for the grand reopening of the East Columbia Library in February 2018.  “For us, it was a place where you just went to borrow books.  Now, it’s truly a gathering place – a hub the community fully utilizes.”

Community Enjoy’s a Resurgence of the East Columbia Library

And, there’s sure a lot to utilize.  The East Columbia Library has more than 161,000 items in its collection, ranging from books to eBooks, films, and music.

But beyond the collection, there’s a great deal more that draws the community.  74 computers are scattered throughout the building, a 22 percent increase.  As Kittleman strolled through the aisles, he noted that nearly every computer was being used.

Upgrades are Geared Toward Equipping Young People to Enter the Job Market

There’s a new HiTech classroom, a new STEM lab, and a new Student Design Center.  A Homework Club room and a Teen Area also provide gathering spaces for studying and peer tutoring.

Peeking his head into one darkened room, Kittleman watched as a pre-teen was getting a lesson in immersive virtual reality or “VR.”  With a computer monitor in front of him, VR goggles over his eyes and joysticks in his hands, the young man listened as an instructor explained how images, sound, and other stimuli are woven together to completely engross the user in a computer-generated 360-degree environment.

In another classroom, children were equipped with crayons, markers, and paint.  Surrounded by their parents and instructors, they were absorbed in a variety of arts and crafts projects.

Seven students were gathered inside the HiTech classroom.  A sign reading “HiTech Histology” hung on the window.  Today’s lesson was “Simple Columnar Epithelium” and powerpoint slides of various types of cells and cell structures slid across the flat screen monitor hanging on the classroom wall.

The renovation triples the building’s meeting room capacity.  Three rooms can now seat 220 people.  One of the rooms is named in memory of Marvin Thomas, the former director of the Howard County Library System.

The renovation was also environmentally conscious.  New energy efficient light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, and other sustainable materials were used throughout.

East Columbia Library is a Community-Hub

East Columbia Library now also features two passport offices to accept passport applications and take passport photos.

Inside the vending café, a touchscreen vending machine gives as many options for coffee and lattes as any neighborhood coffee shop.  A half-dozen patrons were gathered around, watching as the first cups were purchased, brewed and dispensed.

It took 14 months and $4.7 million to renovate East Columbia Library.  The funds came from Kittleman’s budgets and the County Library Capital Grant Program, Maryland State Library.

In addition to his support of the East Columbia Library, Kittleman also committed $2.6 million in his FY 2017 budget to ensure renovations of the Central Library were completed in 2016.