Last Thursday was a calm day for Aspen Hill Library branch manager Linda Gimourginas.
Since the nearby Olney Library closed in December for a long-term renovation, there haven’t been many of them.
Gimourginas and the rest of the staff at Aspen Hill have been busy handling more library-goers, including a slew of Olney exiles in need of books and programming. So far, they’ve been able to provide for the new visitors and glad to help them despite a noticeable influx of new patrons. The Olney library is not expected to reopen until at least summer of 2013.
“Some of the times you’re busier, but it has been something that we’ve been able to accommodate,” Gimourginas said. “People from Olney have been here in numbers, and I’m sure at some of the other branches as well. We’ve worked to assure them they’ll still be able to find the books they want.”
Carol Legarreta, public services administrator for Montgomery County Public Libraries, said a number of books were moved from Olney to Aspen Hill before the renovation began in anticipation of the higher volume of visitors. Branches often share materials, which means a patron can check out a book even if it’s not on the shelves at Aspen Hill on a particular day.
Gimourginas said the library was particularly busy throughout the summer, as is typical when schools require students to finish various summer reading assignments.
One of the biggest changes, and perhaps the biggest challenge, has come with library programming.
Frank Kaplan, head of children’s services at Aspen Hill, said as many as 80 or 90 people, some from Olney, participated in the library’s Tuesday Tales kids’ program. That program resumes next week. Kaplan said it attracted between 60 and 70 people before Olney closed.
Aspen Hill has also taken on other programming, like the Olney Book Group, a monthly book discussion group.
Elliot Chabot, chairman of the Aspen Hill Library Advisory Committee, said Montgomery County District 4 councilwoman Nancy Navarro helped secure funding for a staffer to help keep things moving at the library with the increased demand. Aspen Hill is one of many branches that has been hit hard by budget cuts. Aspen Hill library lost two full-time and three part-time staff members last summer, as a result of the cuts.
“There's no question that the library and all of the libraries in the system are currently understaffed for the demand,” Chabot said. “But we carry on, and we’re happy to have the Olney people. More folks in the library is always a good thing.”
Gimourginas and her staff rearranged Aspen Hill’s layout by placing new books and DVDs, items generally in higher demand, toward the front of the library’s main floor.
“They add a little bit of a new dimension to our community,” Gimourginas said. “It’s been very interesting.”