Noyes Library patrons fear possible temporary closure

Raphael Cohen sits with his daughter, Talya, at the Noyes Library for Young Children in Kensington.
Raphael Cohen sits with his daughter, Talya, at the Noyes Library for Young Children in Kensington. (Chris Rossi/the Gazette)
By Andrew Ujifusa
The Gazette
Thursday, April 1, 2010

Raphael Cohen had his daughter, Talya, on his lap, carefully studying "Baby's Very First Animals Book" at the Noyes Library for Young Children in Kensington. Perhaps captivated by other toys, 16-month-old Talya crawled off in search of other stimulation.

"It's really my favorite place indoors to come with my daughter," Cohen, 26, said recently of the county's only library dedicated to children 8 and younger.

But Cohen, a Silver Spring resident, might soon have to find a new place for Talya's animal research. As part of his proposed fiscal 2011 budget, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has called for closing Noyes temporarily as the county attempts to fill a $779 million budget hole.

The library could be closed for up to two years if Leggett's proposal is approved, according to Michele Sellars, a Montgomery County Public Libraries administrator. In addition to saving the county $202,000 per year -- the facility's annual operating budget -- the closure would allow the library system to reorganize the space and make it handicapped-accessible, Sellars said. Cost estimates for the changes were not available.

Leggett's proposed operating budget for the library system is $29.3 million, $8.5 million less than in the current fiscal year. The proposed cuts include 71 staff positions, along with cuts to programs and hours at the system's 20 libraries. Libraries in Gaithersburg and Olney also are scheduled to be closed for renovations in the budget.

"Our challenge was, how do we balance the workload on the department and the staffing, and bring all that in for 22 percent less money?" said Eric Carzon, the library system's business manager.

Reorganizing the space at Noyes would allow it to provide unique children's programming, he said.

Friends of the Library Montgomery County, a private nonprofit group that advocates and does fundraising for the county library system, has raised $85,000 to help improve Noyes for its reopening, said Ari Z. Brooks, the group's executive director.

Friends of the Library doesn't have an official position on the proposal to temporarily close the library, she said, adding that she was personally and professionally saddened by it.

"It's a wonderful, special little place," said Brooks, noting that she takes her children to Noyes. "It clearly does need some upgrades to it."

One full-time librarian and two part-time librarians at Noyes could lose their jobs if Leggett's proposed budget is passed. The County Council is scheduled to vote on it May 27. The 2011 fiscal year begins July 1.

Opened in 1893, Noyes was built with a donation from Kensington founder Brainard Warner, whose mansion at Warner Circle sits next to the library. The building was named after Crosby Noyes because many of the library's original books were reviewed in Noyes's newspaper, the Washington Star, according to the Kensington Historical Society.

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