(Update at 2:40 p.m.) In a flash, the newly renovated Columbia Pike Branch Library officially opened for the first time since March 2020.
The S. Walter Reed Drive Library, which opened in 1975, has undergone a major overhaul, including new furniture, new rugs, new coats of paint, additional meeting rooms, a modernized audiovisual equipment and new lighting.
The collection of 21,000 items has been consolidated on the first floor to make room for an expansion of the Arlington Tech High School curriculum. The program is part of the Arlington Career Center, located on the second floor of the facility.
“We didn’t lose any collections, we gained a few meeting rooms and we gained more discreet spaces,” Arlington Public Library director Diane Kresh told ARLnow. “[The renovation] opened up what had been a lot of wasted space. We really feel bigger. “
Renovations to the entire project, on the first and second floors, cost around $ 4.45 million, according to a spokesperson for Arlington Public Schools, who own the building.
Kresh says the APS ownership of the building offered a chance to improve the library.
“The library has always shared space with schools. It’s a very popular installation and it has shown a lot of wear and tear, ”says Kresh. “So when the schools planned to renovate and expand the Career Center space, it gave us the opportunity to consolidate here and do a redesign. “
Kresh notes that while closing libraries last year due to the pandemic was difficult for staff and the community, there was a “silver lining” – renovations could be done.
The library opened to the public on Tuesday, but the celebration took place last night (Thursday).
With a vaccination rate almost 70% for adults, people filled the community library. There were donuts and cookies, and the kids ate these treats, scurrying from side to side. A magician performed in front of a captivated audience. After the remarks and the ribbon cutting, a cover band produced classics such as “Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy”. The entire Arlington County Council was in attendance, as was County Director Mark Schwartz and Del. Alfonso Lopez.
Vice-president of the board, Katie Cristol, said celebrating the reopening of this library – her neighborhood library – after such a difficult year is welcome.
“It’s a sign of things being restored, things are getting back to normal,” Cristol told ARLnow. “It’s also the first sign that the community is able to come together, which is definitely what we’re seeing happening here.”
Cristol said his favorite thing about coming to the library was browsing new versions of fiction, but that has changed.
“I now have a two year old who loves books, so I think my favorite thing about the library is about to be this community hall,” she said.
From Tuesday, library services have expanded at five locations: Columbia Pike, Central Library, Aurora Hills, Shirlington and Westover. This ends the express service template that APL implemented earlier this year.
New hours in the five open locations:
– Monday / Tuesday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
– Wednesday / Thursday: 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
– Friday / Saturday: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. https://t.co/KNjso8PCS3
– Arlington VA Pub Lib (@ArlingtonVALib) July 2, 2021
Users now have full access to the library’s collections with no time limit for browsing. Spaced seats are available for using public Wi-Fi as well as full access to toilets and water fountains.
The Central Library’s Local History Center, meanwhile, is now open by appointment, with both indoor and outdoor storytime programming resuming later this month.
Starting Friday, August 6, public computers will be available, meeting spaces can be reserved, and indoor programming will increase.
Last month, library officials told ARLnow that they did not have a set date for a full reopening. While this is not a restoration of all services or operating levels before the pandemic – hours remain limited and libraries are still closed on Sundays, for example – it does represent an expansion of services.
Kresh says they were able to accomplish this because vaccination rates are rising, Virginia eased restrictions, and the county lifted the hiring freeze in March.
“We’ve been in hiring mode for several weeks,” Kresh said. “I hope that by the end of the summer we will be ready to open the other two [library] Locations. “
Kresh says the hope is that by the end of 2021, if not sooner, Arlington Library branches will fully return to pre-pandemic services and operations.
“This is my stated absolute goal,” she said. “And I’m going to work like crazy to make it happen.”