BOWIE – Book lovers in Bowie have their beloved library back, with some state-of-the-art upgrades. On June 29, elected officials, library representatives and residents of Bowie – more than 200 guests in total – celebrated the grand reopening of the Bowie branch of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) after a six-month closure […]
BOWIE – Book lovers in Bowie have their beloved library back, with some state-of-the-art upgrades.
On June 29, elected officials, library representatives and residents of Bowie – more than 200 guests in total – celebrated the grand reopening of the Bowie branch of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) after a six-month closure for renovations. PGCMLS Chief Operating Officer for Support Services Michael Gannon said he was a demanding client and pushed the contractors to get the work done.
“We were on time. We were actually early with the construction,” Gannon said. “I am a monster client, nothing is ever right. But (construction company Nardi Construction) were so good-natured and so willing to do anything we asked of them.”
Opened in April 1967, the Bowie library last underwent a major renovation in the 1990s, leaving many of the facilities outdated. But this renovation brings 21st-century technology. Features in the renovated building include 64 computers, WiFi capabilities and charging stations for electronic devices. The teen center upstairs also features a virtual reality system that patrons can use, the first in the PGCMLS system.
Outside, the building got a new sign and a colorful blue façade, as well as new windows and a roof.
The library’s location on Annapolis Road directly adjacent to Bowie High School means it is a frequent hangout spot for teens, Gannon said. Library staff recognized this and worked with administrators to convert the meeting room on the main level into a dual-purpose space, featuring gaming stations and seating for teens.
“It was the children’s and youth services staff that thought of this,” he said. “The staff here has made this place a welcoming place for them. We have places (for them) and things for them to do.”
The renovations also added eight new study rooms and updated the quiet study room.
For younger children, a mock city was created for “Discovery Main Street,” the children’s area. Decorations evoke a pizza parlor, post office, hardware store and fire station. The fire station area is enhanced by a converted fire truck for children to play on, on long-term loan from the National Children’s Museum.
“It’s a real little town with trees and everything,” he said.
County Councilman Todd Turner, who represents the area, said the theme is fitting, because the library is located on Bowie’s main street and serves as a hub for community activity and sentiment.
“I love this ‘Discovery Main Street’ exhibit, considering that we’re sitting here on Maryland 450, which is Bowie’s Main Street,” he said. “I think this is now a refurbished, renovated place that people can really enjoy, with new technology that’s keeping up with what’s occurring in our communities as well. But it’s also going to be the community place that it always has been for almost 50 years now.”
He also said he appreciated the partnership between the city of Bowie, the county and the state of Maryland that allowed the costs of the project to be shared across all three governments.
“It’s something for us to celebrate. And to be able to utilize funds, both between the city and the state and the county, to be able to bring something back to the community that I know was missed,” he said.
Irene Padilla, who as of July 1 is the state librarian in the new Maryland State Library agency, said the state provided $1.3 million towards the project through the county library capital grants program. For the past ten years, the program has provided $43 million and leveraged another $250 million from local jurisdictions.
She said as the state transitions to a new library agency, she will continue to monitor the program, because it brings libraries to communities, which in turn bring communities together.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity for me to see all of you, because I really like to see people from various backgrounds, people from birth practically to people my age, which I describe as being up there,” Padilla said. “And we’re just here to celebrate the fact that there’s so much to be gained from coming to the library.”
Bowie City Councilwoman Diane Polangin agreed. She said while the technology upgrades are welcome, for many, the appeal of the library still lies in the books.
“Far too often, the youngest among us seem to lose themselves in an ever-expanding cyber world. But here, here in this place, they can imagine life in space. They can experience life at sea,” she said. “They can recreate life at Lexington, at Concord, or Valley Forge. When they do that, their boundaries become limited only by their imaginations.”