Libraries are places of learning — from the first classroom for babies and toddlers to the “People’s University.” Across all ages, learning methods and ideologies, Baltimore County Public Library continues to strive to reach more people, make more connections and provide opportunities to ensure equity in education.
Over 133,000 children and their caregivers participated in 5,078 story times for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. These programs are designed to promote early childhood development, learning and school readiness.
Through the Students Achieve in Libraries (SAIL) partnership between Baltimore County Public Library and Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), the Student Accounts initiative launched in November 2017. This initiative facilitates access to public library materials. Every BCPS student now has a fine-free Student Account allowing up to five checkouts and unlimited use of online resources.
August 2017 brought scientific excitement nationwide as we celebrated a rare total solar eclipse. Branches throughout the system hosted programs and viewing parties for all ages, with eclipse glasses for participants provided by Space Science Institute National Center for Interactive Learning.
Parkville-Carney Branch staff made monthly visits to the Charles H. Hickey School at the Maryland Juvenile Detention Center. These afterschool sessions provided opportunities for students to select books or comics for leisure reading. An American Library Association Great Stories Club grant brought materials and programming through summer 2017; this partnership was the only grant recipient in the country to earn a visit from author Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) in July 2017. Graphic novelist Raúl Gonzalez visited in February 2018.
The Essex and Randallstown branches hosted a Build Your Own Computer series using Institute of Museum and Library Services/ Library Services and Technology Act grant funds. These programs enabled participants to learn a variety of technical skills in a hands-on environment, while creating a fully functioning desktop computer to keep upon completion.
In October 2017, the Sollers Point Branch became the first public library to install Talking is Teaching panels on the playground adjacent to the branch. Talking is Teaching panels are designed to encourage caregivers to talk with their children while they play together, emphasizing the importance of language skills and communication at an early age. The panels were provided through a partnership with the Too Small to Fail initiative of the Clinton Foundation, with funding provided by Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library. President Bill Clinton spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Libraries are evolving to meet the needs of the community. While proud of its heritage, the library is focused on new services and technologies to provide the resources and opportunities for succeeding in the 21st century. Revamped spaces are designed to encourage community connections and learning in new ways, while marketing and outreach opportunities bring library services beyond the buildings and out into communities.
A brand new library website debuted in April 2018. This new site provides numerous enhancements to usability, in addition to serving as an updated marketing platform.
The Woodlawn Branch opened a STREAM Space (science, technology, reading, engineering, arts, math) in March 2018. This space is geared toward children who have aged out of Storyville and provides a variety of engaging, educational toys and activities. The project was made possible through a microgrant from Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library.
Six Little Free Libraries, designed and built by Eastern Technical High School students, were installed in Baltimore County parks. This multi-agency collaboration was the capstone project of Baltimore County Public Library’s most recent Leadership Development Program team, who chose Little Free Libraries as a way to connect with the community outside of each branch’s walls. The “take a book, leave a book” philosophy encourages community interaction while getting books into the hands of more people.
The Reisterstown Branch and the Catonsville Branch partnered with Oregon Ridge Nature Center and Benjamin Banneker Park to construct and host a story trail; a semi-permanent installation of posts with pages from storybooks along a nature trail to encourage the healthy interaction of physical activity and reading. The building materials and books were purchased through microgrants awarded to the branches from Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library.
Libraries are the village green, committed to nurturing a thriving and inclusive community. Libraries provide equal access, intellectual freedom, safe and welcoming gathering spaces for community members to connect, learn and succeed.
Eight branches hosted Lawyers in the Library programs throughout FY2018. Maryland Legal Aid representatives offered free legal advice on non-criminal matters. Participants received assistance to better understand issues related to bankruptcy, foreclosure prevention, child custody and support, debt collection, expungements, government benefits, housing, landlord/ tenant disputes, veterans' benefits, and wage claims.
Lawyers from St. Ambrose Housing Aid Society offered a Free Wills and Estates program at six branches, located in areas with a significant number of low-income or senior households. Lawyers answered estate and housing questions, educated customers about the importance of having a will and prepared wills at no cost.
Art and health programs were presented during May 2018 in honor of Older Americans Month. The Mental Health Association of Maryland hosted programs about mental health concerns and included topics about the importance of laughter, being chronically happy and leading a stress-free life. The Art of Bookbinding gave participants the opportunity to create a journal using painting and bookbinding techniques. These programs were supported by Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library and also featured an art reception and book exhibit.
A Human Library™, where real people are on loan for conversations to share their stories was part of the annual community-wide reading program, BC Reads: Stories Connect Us. Readers checked out a human book, who shared their personal stories, such as being Muslim, transgender, racially profiled, deaf, autistic and bipolar. The program was aimed at challenging stereotypes and prejudices of different cultures, communities and experiences through dialogue.
The Woodlawn Branch launched A Cut Above, an outreach project to create reading spaces and share library resources with customers at three barbershops within its community. Addressing achievement gaps across several populations, including gender, socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity and English proficiency, the visits enabled staff to facilitate maker programs and talk to families about reading and library services, such as online databases and tutoring services in English.
Libraries celebrate creative and cultural pursuits of all kinds, from fostering the love of reading to showcasing artistic talents and emerging technologies. Community members of all ages come together at the library to learn new skills, share their passions and create bright futures.
Summer Teen Workshops were offered at multiple branches and consisted of three to five days of educational and engaging experiences for teens. The workshops covered a variety of topics, including improvisation, babysitting, film and media production, robotics, drones, gardening, veterinary science and photography. Teens were able to connect with other teens, build trusting and professional relationships with expert teachers, increase their awareness in the workshops’ subject matter and have fun in a safe space during the summer. Programming was made possible in part by the Summer Learning Resources Grant from the Young Adult Library Services Association and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
The Woodlawn Branch was the recipient of a Best Buy Community Grant that funded a Youth Speaks Out workshop series presented by Wide Angle Youth Media. Over the course of six sessions, high school students learned important 21st century technology skills, such as operating DSLR cameras, sound recording equipment and video editing software to create short films on the topic Why Black Lives Matter, tackling such topics as identity, stereotypes and racism.
The Hive at the Hereford Branch hosted the inaugural year of its Artist in Residence program. Four unique artists welcomed community members of all ages to experience art and music programs through engaging and hands-on opportunities. This program was generously sponsored by the Northern Baltimore County Art Foundation.
Opportunities for local independent authors and writing communities to come together were held on Indie Author Day in October and a Local Author Showcase in March. Indie Author Day, celebrated worldwide, featured opportunities for networking as well as sessions on marketing, social media tools and the importance of public speaking. The Local Author Showcase brought a crowd of readers together to meet several local authors and celebrate their work.
As part of the 2018 Summer Reading Challenge: Libraries Rock!, each branch took part in Make Music Day, a celebration of music held in more than 800 cities and 120 countries held annually on June 21. A wide variety of music genres, including classical, jazz, big band, hip hop and Afrobeat, were performed by local artists for the community to enjoy.
The COLAB at the Randallstown Branch hosted a virtual makerspace in partnership with software developer Hadar Silverman from Earthborn Interactive. Participants used virtual reality equipment, including a virtual wood lathe and computer numerical control machine, to create 3D printed projects to take home. Customers also had the opportunity to learn about software development as a career path.
Fiscal Year 2018 was about sharing our vision to engage and empower individuals for an inclusive and connected community. Our values guide our dedicated and passionate staff each and every day in our role as an instrument of democracy, and focus our commitment to positively impact the quality of life to the more than 800,000 Baltimore County residents and the 10 million visitors to our 19 branches, four bookmobiles and the virtual branch.