by Geoff Fox
In 2012, Washington County Library officials announced Hancock would need a new library after the maintenance and age finally caught up to the Hancock branch.
The library had stood in Widmeyer Park near the Lions Pavilion and volleyball net until flooding forced it to be moved to where the tennis courts were located.
But in 2017, all that changed when ground was broken across Park Road for the new Hancock Veterans Memorial Library. The library officially opened its doors in 2018.
The former library was demolished and the tennis courts behind it are now basketball and pickle-ball courts.
On October 31, the library will be celebrating its five-year anniversary with an open house.
Pam Mann has been the branch manager since before the move to the new building.
Mann has said it’s been great since moving from the smaller library to the much larger one a few yards away.
She added the patrons are enjoying the new space and the services the library is able to offer in that larger space.
With that space, community groups have been able to use the meeting room, as has the town council shortly after the library opened.
Mann said there have been a number of regular programs held at the library “every single week, year round.”
“Summer it’s really, really busy,” she said.
In the five years at the new location, Mann has said the readership has gone up as well.
“We’re still getting new people every day,” she said. When it comes to positives, there are a lot of those in the new library, but when it comes to negatives…
“I can’t think of a single negative from being up here,” Mann said. “Nothing at all.”
It has been all positives in the new building.
The size of the library has been one of the biggest positives of the new building.
Mann said in the old library, it was small and there wasn’t room to do anything, especially when it came to storage and office space.
The office in the old library was about the size of a closet in the current library’s office.
Mann added the library also has multiple rooms such as the meeting room and a quiet room, spaces for people to sit and read and talk. She added there’s a Dungeons and Dragons group that will meet at the library at times.
“People are really starting to embrace that we have a library,” Mann said.
With the old library, Mann would hear people ask and say “you have a library,” mistakenly thinking it was part of the pool area.
In the old library, Mann said, there were issues with mold and air conditioning and heat on a fairly regular basis.
There have been a few issues, but they’ve been so far and few between, Mann said, but they’re basically new building issues where things would need to be tweaked.
The new library opened in 2018 and was open for about a year and a half when the pandemic started, closing nearly everything in the country.
While there were times the library was closed during the pandemic, Mann said the library was open for most of the pandemic.
“We found ways to get services to our patrons,” she said.
Since COVID, the library system installed outdoor lockers for people who couldn’t get in the library to check out books.
Mann said people who might not make it in during their open hours, people can check out books and get a code for the locker. They’d use that code to get their books out of the locker whenever they are able.
Other ways they helped people get library services was meeting people in the parking lot and online as well.
It has taken a little while to get back up to steam when it comes to programs though, Mann admitted.
When the library reopened for the public, Mann said her Wednesday story times didn’t have anyone attending. Those numbers have since gone up to what she calls a healthy, regular story time with an average of seven to nine kids.
Mann added things that were going on before the pandemic have returned to the library such as home school groups and reading club.
“Everything seems to be back to normal, more or less,” she said.
The library collection has grown in the last five years.
When the library first opened, there were no more than three shelves on any category of book. Now, the library has run out of space for large print books and on new books. There’s also expansion down to four shelves on a lot of categories.
“When people first came in, people said, ‘Whoa, boy this place looks really empty,’ but it was an opportunity for growth,” she said. “We’re growing.”
Books can be checked out from any library in the state through the Hancock library. If they don’t have it, Mann said they could scour the library system to find it.
There have been books from within Washington County checked out from Hancock, but also from the Baltimore area and anywhere else.
There have been updates with video games and young adult books the library offers, there are art kits and learning kits available, more computers than the old library, and collaborations within the community such as the Senior Center and Good Shepherd.
When the ribbon was cut in a ceremony on October 30, 2018, Mann was the first person to greet people as they entered the library.
As the people walked by, Mann was hoping the library would “blast off and become the hub of the town.”
In that time a lot more people have started coming in than the previous library on a more regular basis, using it for more purposes than just books.
“I think we’re at where I was hoping we’d be at now,” Mann said. “There’s still room for more growth.”