Statement by Fred Sissine

Mayor City of Mount Rainier

Presented at Hearing on 5B898 "Mount Rainier Library" before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee

March 12, 2001

Chairman Hoffman and Committee Members:

The City of Mount Rainier offers its sincere appreciation to Senator Exum and District 24 Delegates Benson, Swain, and Howard for introducing SB898 and RB 1305. We are very grateful to our state team for their leadership with this bill.

The bill seeks a $500,000 state grant to help us build a new library on our main street, Maryland's historic Route One. As an important technical note, we request that the Committee amend the stated purposes of the bill. It currently asks to support acquisition, planning and design, but needs to be expanded to include "construction and capital equipment." This amendment helps ensure flexibility in the use of the grant.

Mount Rainier and its neighboring jurisdictions urgently need a new library. The current library facility is owned by the City and operated by the Prince George's County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS). Built in 1952, the current building is the oldest branch that has never been expanded or replaced. Further, at about 1,200 sf, it is the smallest branch in the system. One of the photographs in your packet shows this severe size problem. The facility becomes overcrowded when more than 15-20 people are there. To put this in perspective, in most other facilities, the children's area alone is about twice the size of our entire library. Also, many libraries have a meeting room that is larger than our entire building. The size constraint limits the collections and ability to accommodate patrons which, in turn, causes declining use. Without a new facility, we are at a dead end.

The decay of the building is also showing up in more frequent physical problems. The antiquated electrical system makes it difficult to install computers and modern electronic equipment. Other recent problems include roof leaks and failures of the heating and cooling systems. It also has very poor indoor air quality, which makes it completely unusable for people with allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems.

The demand for library services in our area exceeds the capability of this facility and perhaps that of others in our region. Due to its poor condition, when the library budget crisis occurred in the mid-1990s, our library was on the "hit list" to be closed. Local users rallied hard and we saved it from closing. This ordeal lit a fire under the community, which then formed a Friends of the Library group, to provide more active support for the library and to investigate ideas for a new facility.

Over the past five years, the Friends of the Mount Rainier Library has searched for models for a new main street library. In this quest, they have visited public libraries in Prince George's County, Montgomery County (Takoma Park and Poolesville), and Howard County (Glenridge and East Columbia) .as well as Baltimore, Thurmont, and Frostburg. They have found that an appropriate, modem library requires about 10,000 square feet (sf), in order to accommodate areas for children, young adults, adults, staff, and meeting rooms. The new main street library in Frostburg is the best model they have found.

This project will develop a new 10,000 sf library, that includes designated areas for children, young adults, adults (with reference materials and computers), quiet room, and program/community meeting room. It will be a center for independent learning, community information, and community events. A "virtual library" learning center will bridge the digital divide by employing broadband technology and free access to software that supports school curricula (preschool to young adult), adult learning, the arts, and special-needs groups. Special collections will highlight arts, local history, and cultural diversity. The arts theme will be further embraced through interior design, displays, and shared meeting rooms for a range of programs and activities.

Also, the building will showcase green design features that make for cost-effective, attractive, and healthy environment while providing educational value. This "state-of-the-art" library will directly serve residents of the city and neighboring communities, including youth from several public schools, seniors, and low-income persons who lack the economic means and mobility to get to other branches. The virtual library and other unique features will attract residents county-wide and from neighboring jurisdictions.

Our town center entrance-way to Maryland has suffered decades of neglect and decay, leading to blight and crime. The history of economic redevelopment in our town center is a case study of "bootstrap" revitalization. We are doing everything that we can for ourselves. We have worked for more than a decade to revitalize our business area. A new library would be a major part of this effort. Like a food store, bank, or post office, the library will be a major activity anchor that draws people to the business area and thereby boosts revitalization on Route One. This project will remove major blight, support bus transit, stimulate economic renewal, and propel smart growth.

We are a state priority area for smart growth funding. The blighted condition of Route One has left us with a greatly depressed tax base and inordinately high costs for police services, which greatly impairs our ability to fund major capital projects. Thus, state leadership in funding is sorely needed and will give a major boost to this project.

We thank the Committee for considering SB898, and strongly urge that you approve it.

Friends of the Mount Rainier Library

The Friends of the Mount Rainier Library find compelling reasons why a library of sufficient size and service capability is likely to have a dramatic positive effect on Mount Rainier's town center revitalization.

All around the country, libraries are generating interest as economic and community development boosts for businesses, as well as facilities that provide diverse opportunities for improving the quality of life at all socio-economic levels.

Abdallah's, at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and 34th Street, is one location that the Fnends of the Mount Rainier Library have been evaluating. We see this site as a potentially exciting location for a new library. At this site, we envision a new Mount Rainier Library as one with added features that make it valuable for the community-and for revitalization.



This prime corner location raises potential benefits for both public and private sector developments.


In the right location, the library becomes a hub of the community, drawing and naturally diversifying businesses.


Building new, the site could accommodate a cafe and another retail use, a public library with at least one community room for after-school programs and other activities, artists' live-work spaces, and a parking garage. Research shows marketing successes for public libraries integrated with cafes or restaurants.


The topography of this location can accommodate a ground-level parking facility. Its larger footprint presents an excellent opportunity for developing a 25-car parking garage or drive-through carport. It could support the increased demand for parking by new library patrons, new arts developments, and spin-off businesses.


As the American Library Association notes, the Library's mission is to provide equal service to diverse populations of all socio-economic levels of society.

"Of prime concern is convenient access. A library site, like that of a successful commercial location, must be near, if not on, the community's major pedestrian and vehicular traffic route." (Christine Koontz, Library Facility Siting and Location Handbook, 1977, p. 42)

Friends of the Mount Rainier Library(FOL)

Fact Sheet

The Friends of the Mount Rainier Library was formed by concerned individuals to promote use of the Library and to explore opportunity for developing a new state-of-the-art library. FOL is working on new library concepts in partnership with city, county, and state government.

Customer Base

A public library's priority is to meet informational and service needs. Its mission is to provide equal services to diverse populations of all socio-economic levels of society at minimal or no cost. As a result, the public must serve a broad customer base.

Main Activity: Planning The New LIbrary (10,000 sq. ft.)

Library Features Could Include

  1. Inviting spaces for children
  2. Exhibit for local artists
  3. Quiet study alcoves
  4. Specialized collections reflecting our community
  5. Space for community meetings and performances
  6. Computer, software, and internet access
  7. A bookstore
  8. A coffee shop
  9. Easy access for disabled persons
  10. Green features

Economic and Community Development

The Friends agree with conclusions of the American Library Association which find that, if sited and sized properly, a public library can be a key stimulant to economic and community development.


The Mount Rainier Public Library can become a true activity and cultural center that attracts local residents into the town center and improves the business revitalization environment. A vibrant library should be an active, enjoyable community institution-a public sector "anchor"-a place where people want to be. Thus, development of a new, modernized library could greatly help to revitalize the town center.

Best Location

  1. Accessible: The heart of the town center, near public transportation.
  2. Visible: On a major street with high visibility for motorist and pedestrians alike.
  3. Parking: Ground level parking that is easy to find.

Development Strategy

  1. Work with partners to develop revitalization potential.
  2. Integrate private and public funding sources.
  3. Design assistance from Neighborhood Design Center (NDC).

Activities, Volunteers Wanted!

  1. Weekly Meetings
  2. Non-profit, tax exemption. 5Olc(3)
  3. State Bond Bill $500,000
  4. Web site development
  5. Information brochure, with help from NDC

Contact Information
Joan Van Blake, President 301) 779-4525
Lyn Lawrence, Vice President
Anthony Hall, Treasurer (301) 927-5153
Michelle Sust, Secretary
FOLMR, Post Office Box 273. Mount Rainier. Maryland 20712-0273
(301) 927-3960 (301) 699-5121

Library Roles

Library roles differ radically in their effect on design. Size of library buildings will continue to be influenced by population projections, but roles will play an increasingly greater part in interior functional design. (Lushington, N. A., and Kusack M., 1991. The Design and Evaluation of Public Library Buildings. p. 21)

  1. Popular Materials Library
    Half the people coming to small - and medium-sized libraries want a good, interesting book to read - usually fiction. Popular new books need to be spread out for browsing ease, which raises the circulation rate. Equally popular high-intensity use materials - such as video tapes, CD's, and audio books - should also be displayed in the popular library area. (p.22-23)

  2. Preschoolers/Children's Door to Learning
    Children's areas should reflect differences in use, size, and approaches to books and other media. For a child, the first visit to the public library should be a magical first contact with an amazing variety of experiences. One study suggests that the greater visibility provided by browsing bins multiplies the circulation rate. The physical design of the children's room is important to attracting use. It should be inviting, friendly, colorful, and approachable - they should feel the room is for them. Also, this area needs to reflect the increasing use of computers by children. They should be able to create their own study area, select their own materials, and operate their own machines. Part of the children's room should be available for open play. (p. 36-41)

  3. Independent Learning Center/Formal Educational Support Center
    Materials to support a variety of independent learning objectives require a somewhat larger book collection. Quiet study areas for long-term use will be in greater demand. This role should be designed in consideration of educational objectives of local schools and educational opportunities in the community. (p. 47 - 48)

  4. Young Adult Area
    The primary purpose is to serve the educational, recreational, and personal development needs of adolescents. It should be a welcoming place where they will not feel judged or criticized. School projects, pursue hobbies, read magazines, and look up career guides. Also, there should be a listening center where they can listen to music without disturbing others.(p. 45)

  5. Community Information Center (& Reference/Research Library)
    Automation of community information and its access through computers available in the library. (p. 36) The reference role is the heart of a variety of services. Quick and easy access to online information (Internet) is basic as well as access to reference books, indexes and magazines. (p. 31)

  6. Community Activities Center
    The library is a center for community cultural events - art shows, programs, films, lectures, and meetings of many community organization. (p. 46)

Arts Ideas for Library Design

  1. Shared facility occupancy. Artserve in Florida is one example of a library sharing space with an arts organization, including performance and exhibition areas. (See Librarian's Guide to Partnerships, Chapter 7) This could also be accomplished in a multi-story facility, in a parallel to the mixed-use concept in Portland's Library Project.

  2. Shared facility use. The library could be designed with multiple or specially - configured program rooms that could also be used for cultural programs in the arts. The effort to provide seed events could also be a partnership between the library and the arts organization. (See Librarian's Guide to Partnerships, Chapter 8)

  3. Depository for Community Arts Productions. An example would be the recent Mount Rainier community production's of Peter Pan and the Little Mermaid. There are a variety of planning and design dent into the productions. The library could have a depository that collects this documentation into an organized format that is easily accessible for schools or future community arts productions. An archive for individual artists to reflect the living history of the artist and their culture.

  4. Production Dissemination. A library's life blood is information capacity. The current move to broadband fiber for internet links may pose an opportunity for real-time video production over internet. Thus, an otherwise small stage or performance area could still have a wide Audience. The library's information system could be designed to facilitate the use of a special program room for such a purpose.

  5. Special Collection. An arts collection of all mediums to include art books, scripts, art history, educational and curriculum tools for arts education.

Supporting Documents

  1. Library Service Roles (The Design and Evaluation of Public Library Buildings)

  2. Library Site Selection Guidelines (The Design of the Small Public Library)

  3. Population-based Guidelines for Minimum Interior Size (Standards for Small Public Library)

  4. County Library Sizes (Mount Rainier is the smallest)

  5. Ideal Library Interior Layout (10,000 sf)

  6. Libraries with Cafes and Restaurants (American Library Association, PLA 2000)

  7. Frostburg Community Library: Photo & Floor Plan

  8. Portland's Smart Growth Library: RFP Project Summary (public-private partnership)

  9. Smart Growth/Revitalization Role: Abdalla's Site Concept (confidential letter with attachments)

  10. List of Libraries visited by FOL (floor plans also available)

  11. Arts Ideas for Library Design

Also available:

  1. FOL Presentation on Library Planning

  2. Building Interior Program Elements (Prepared for Neighborhood Design Center)

  3. Fund-raising Strategy: Notes From Dennis Fruitt Meeting

  4. Library Site Selection: American Library Association Excerpts

  5. Frostburg Library: Fundraising Brochure

  6. Frostburg Library: Feasibility Study, Concept Design, Site Plan, Fund-raising Tips.

  7. Portland Library: RFP, MOU, Multnomah County Resolution

  8. Ballard Library: RFP, MOU, Seattle, Washington

  9. Village Learning Place (Baltimore): Information PR Brochure

  10. Articles on Cafe Libraries

  11. List of Professional Library Planning Books

  12. Green Arts Revitalization

  13. City's Mixed Use Town Center Development Plan

  14. Town Center Parking Study