Despite delays, city library thriving in temporary location
By BEN SIMASEK — Reconstruction of the Hyattsville branch of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) has been delayed as the county has sought to secure sufficient funding and select a contractor. Now expected to open in late 2020 at the earliest, the new library will be a 40,000 square-foot, one-story facility with additional study rooms, community meeting spaces and parking.The Hyattsville library is one of 10 construction/renovation projects slated for the county library system, for which $63.8 million has been budgeted through 2025. The capital improvements budget includes $6 million in 2019, and an additional $9.3 million in 2020 for the Hyattsville branch. Voters must decide whether they want the county to take on debt in the form of bonds to fund these projects.
The Prince George’s County Office of Central Services, responsible for managing architectural design for all of the county’s public buildings, has had challenges finding a contractor to build the library, according to Deputy Director Floyd Holt. The office is currently negotiating with five companies that have submitted bids.
According to PGCMLS Chief Operating Officer Michael Gannon, no pre-construction meetings have been scheduled yet. Remediation of hazardous materials must occur prior to demolition of the existing building. Gannon estimates that once construction begins, it will take 24 to 30 months before the new building is complete.
Meanwhile, the Hyattsville library remains an active community resource center. The branch temporarily relocated in April 2017 to the plaza in University Town Center, at 6502 America Boulevard.
The community has adjusted well to the change, according to Heather Jackson, West Area manager for PGCMLS, which includes the Hyattsville branch. “In spite of the smaller size, we are seeing very minimal changes to our gate counts and attendance at programs,” said Jackson. “The new location has also allowed us to attract some new customers who had never been to our library before. We have seen new customers receive library cards after spotting us as they went to a movie or during move-in day at the student apartments behind the branch.”
Beyond the importance of providing books and digital resources, Jackson cited the enriching array of services — support for job seekers, computer and language classes, and a variety of programs and clubs for teens and children — as key elements that make the library critical for Hyattsville residents.
Jackson highlighted this year’s Summer @ Your Library program, during which staff outreach resulted in more than 1,000 summer reading program registrations, as an example of the library’s value to the community. “Programs like this have major ripple effects,” Jackson said. “[Participants] develop … so many key life skills, such as the ability to synthesize information to make a prediction or draw a conclusion, research skills for our teens, language skills, problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills. These skills produce better outcomes for these kids, which in turn means better outcomes for their families and the broader community.”