PORT DEPT – The Cecil County Public Library (CCPL) will not reopen its port depot branch, leaving its location on South Main Street after 17 years. Residents will still be able to access services as CCPL will continue its partnership with Community Connecting Us (CCU).
“The good news is that in 2020 you don’t need four walls to do library service in the community,” said Morgan Miller, Executive Director of CCPL.
CCPL plans to vacate the building by early fall. The building originally closed during the pandemic and did not reopen for in-person browsing in March with the other branches because it was too small to support social distancing.
Miller pointed out a weekly StoryTime program at the Nesbitt Hall CCU on North Main Street, where librarians go to Port Deposit to read to children, as an example of the programs the library will provide. The library will also use the bookmobile, to bring the two books and with the help of a subsidy from the Regional Council of the Haute-Côte, computers and employment assistance in the city.
“Ironically, I think we’ve been here and done more here over the last couple of months to really serve this community in a way our other branches do without using this building when we’ve had it for a long time.” Miller said.
Another collaboration with CCU is the Port Deposit Bike Project, something CCPL could expand across the county. The project gives people the opportunity to have their bikes repaired.
“By listening to the people in town, you learn that a lot of kids as well as adults don’t have bikes or that the bikes are broken,” Miller said. “They don’t know how to ride them safely and don’t have helmets, and that’s something we really wanted to do.”
Miller said the library will work with the city to develop the port deposit microcredit program and other forms of assistance to individual businesses. CCPL hopes to work with the city to eventually expand the expansion of broadband and technology loans, as well as other means of accessing library materials. Miller said some collections will be moved to the CCU and may introduce a book kiosk, something similar to a book vending machine.
Miller said the library is leasing its current location. Miller said the location lacks parking, making it inaccessible to people who have to drive to access it. She said the Port Deposit is the only branch that is still in the center of the city that it serves, as the often historic buildings are unable to support modern library infrastructure, such as the need for meeting rooms, programming space, technology, workspace for staff and ADA Accessibility.
“I’m not saying it’s a bad building,” Miller said. “It’s just not fair for us to continue to invest in making it a public library. “
Erica Berge, president of the CCU, said the organization approached the library before the pandemic to offer space to host classes and events that the library could not accommodate in the current building. The children’s programming takes place every Wednesday, with the bookmobile arriving at the Port Deposit every Thursday.
“Community Connecting Us has been providing a safe space for the children of Port Deposit to get together and ‘hang out’ for over a year and we are excited to be able to increase the number of opportunities to spend time with our young neighbors through programming from the library, ”Berge said.
Miller said a new port depot library could be created, but it could serve not only the city but also the wider area, such as Bainbridge and Conowingo.
Cecil County Council Member Jackie Gregory at Tuesday’s council meeting said those using the Port Deposit library can drive to one of the other libraries nearby.
“If you stand in the port depot library in both directions, you can get to a library that offers a lot more services in less than 15 minutes,” said Gregory.
Mayor Bob Kuhs said his main concern is that many residents who use the library, such as young children, cannot drive. Kuhs said the CCU initiatives provide a good replacement for the library, as it provides space for community events.
“When you have a library in the middle of town, kids can go to that library,” Kuhs said. “Even though with today’s electronic communications kids don’t go to the library as much as they used to, it’s good to have a place the kids can go when they’re away from their phones. “