The Future Belongs to Everyone: Introducing the New Lakefront Library

Architectural rendering of a concept for a new multi-level library on Columbia's Lakefront, placed between the fountain and playground.

On Thursday, March 30, 2023, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball was joined by Governor Wes Moore and President and CEO of HCLS Tonya Aikens to unveil plans for a reimagined and transformative library in downtown Columbia. The project will be coupled with expanded mixed-income housing opportunities for the growing community.

The 100,000 square-foot structure will foster creativity, learning, and civic engagement. It will be the first, innovative library of its kind in the region. Designs unveiled were created by Heatherwick Studio, an internationally recognized firm. 

We invite your input and ideas to shape Howard County Library System’s next Strategic Plan, which will guide the future of HCLS, including the new Lakefront Library.  

Your voice matters.
Come together with other residents who are passionate about public education and enhancing library facilities, programs, and services. Please take the online survey or attend one of these:

Listening sessions facilitated by Due East Partners.: 

Thank you for helping us thoughtfully plan how we can work together to better address the evolving aspirations of our Howard County community.

Why is the new Lakefront Library needed now?
The existing branch is undersized to serve the current population, is further constrained by the addition of new housing units, and is slated for demolition as part of the Downtown Columbia plan. More information is available on the HCLS website.

  • When was the Central Branch most recently renovated and how much was spent?
    The Central Branch first opened in 1981 and was renovated in 2000–2001. Minor interior alterations were completed in 2016 at a cost of $1.8M. Due to the pending development, renovations were minimal and addressed structural, end-of-life, interim fixes and enhancements to address customer needs (e.g., new paint, new carpet), and transformed space formerly used by administrative staff into public space.
  • How long has this new Lakefront Library been planned?
    Howard County’s Downtown Columbia Plan (adopted in 2010 and updated in 2018) recommended that a new Central branch be built in Columbia’s new Downtown. In 2019, HCLS engaged G4 Architecture, Research, and Planning, Inc. to update its Master Plan, which calls for a new 100,000 SF downtown Columbia Branch to meet the increased number of new residents and visitors and to meet the Maryland State minimum library guidelines of one SF per capita.
  • Why is a 100,000 SF library needed?
    The current Central Branch is not large enough to accommodate existing customers. At completion of the redevelopment plans, downtown Columbia will feature 1.25 million SF of retail space, 4.3 million SF office/conference space, 640 hotel rooms, and 6,244 market-rate and affordable housing units. These new residential units will expand Howard County’s population by a minimum of 15 percent. In addition, the Central Branch serves the entire county through its Project Literacy program, Art Education Collection, Equity Resource Center, Business and Foundation Center, and Health Collection.
  • What is the proposed timeline for this project?
    FY24: Begin design
    FY25: Continue design, and begin permits and pre-construction services
    FY26: Start construction
    FY27: Complete construction
  • What is the cost for the new branch?
    The estimated cost is $143M.
  • What is the cost for additional staffing?
    There is no additional staffing cost. Existing Central Branch staff will be relocated to the Lakefront Library.

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