OCEAN CITY – With an opening date at least one month away, local library officials are busy preparing for the transition from the antiquated branch on 14th Street to the modern facility on 100th Street.
The Dispatch walked through the new branch of the Ocean City Library this week, while workers continued to get the tech-savvy facility in shape for an upcoming inspection by Ocean City officials. From Coastal Highway, the building’s exterior looks complete, but much has to be done inside before the modern branch can open to the public. On Tuesday, workers were busy painting remote areas, installing fixtures, cleaning and unpacking boxes, many of which housed the bookshelves that will be featured throughout the building.
Although he said nothing has been announced or planned as of yet because of a number of unknowns, Worcester County Library Director Mark Thomas anticipates an opening date of within four to eight weeks.
“We don’t have a fixed date yet because there’s a series of things that need to happen once we get in there,” Thomas said. “We’ve got everything lined up. We have to have the furniture delivered and installed, put the computers on the furniture and then hook up the computers. We’ve got three to four weeks worth of stuff that we need to do once we get in and we’re not in yet. Last we heard was SPN [construction manager] would be ready to have the city inspectors come in next week and get a Certificate of Occupancy.”
According to Thomas, officials have been prepping for the large-scale move for months and are anxiously awaiting word when the county officially gets control of the building. He said Ocean City Library Branch Assistant Manager Joe Colantuoni has led the charge in the resort acting as project manager.
“There’s only so much we can do before the building is turned over to the county. That’s really where our marching orders start,” Colantuoni said. “We’re gearing up and trying to keep our communication lines open and trying to do as much of the planning as we can do before actually being in the building. We want to keep each group involved in getting the new library up and running is aware of what the other groups are doing. We have a plan in place so everyone’s not stepping on each other. We want to do this in an orderly managed fashion as much as possible.”
According to Thomas, the staff and volunteers who will facilitate the move are anxious to get into the new $3 million-plus building and let the community see the new library.
“We’re kind of just treading water at this point. Our particular game doesn’t start until we can actually get in there,” Thomas said. “We’ll probably be in preparation most of next month and we hope to open by the end of next month, but we won’t be able to make that estimate until we actually get in the building.”
Thomas said the county has signed a deal with a moving company that specifically works on relocating libraries. Therefore, he anticipates the collection being easily moved once the shelving is constructed. As of Tuesday, that effort had not be started.
“It’s a domino effect, but the first domino has not been flipped yet,” Thomas said. “This is the frustrating time. There’s only so much we can do. We have got a jump on some of the things we need to do. Some of the backbone of the computer system has been started throughout the building with the hookup of the servers and switches. Some of that behind-the-scenes stuff is going on.”
Besides the obvious improvements with a new building and the modern infrastructure, Thomas said the most noticeable change with the new library would be the technology enhancements. He said there would be more than 30 public access computers spread out through three computer areas in the two-and-a-half-story building.
“There are two major features of upgrade – quantity and quality. We’re going to have three times as many computers available to the public as we have at the current location,” Thomas said. “The plan is the bandwidth for the building will be considerably greater so people will notice it’s faster than before. The great thing about having a brand new library is you build the technology from the ground up. It’s incorporated throughout the building.”
The current library on 14th Street and Philadelphia Ave. has long underserved the community. In the summer, the 5,000-square-foot library, which was built more than three decades ago, turns into a quasi-computer lab with hospitality employees, namely those in Ocean City from foreign countries, often waiting in long lines for the next available computer. Once the library is relocated, the property will return to the city after being deeded years ago to the county.
The new library consists of more than 13,000 square feet and features green building aspects approved by the County Commissioners last year.