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Improving the local library has led to an increase in popularity

Good Read

D.C revamps the branch library, updating it for 21st-century learning.

Some may lament that, in this enlightened age of instant information, local libraries have been rendered obsolete. But this could not be further from the truth. By embracing new technologies and programming, these repositories of learning have only grown in popularity.

In 2006, the D.C. Public Library (DCPL) set about updating or replacing more than a dozen worn-out branches across the city. Many of the buildings were old and suffered from differed maintenance. Instead of taking a cookie-cutter approach and creating a generic model for all 12 branches, the DCPL wanted to bring world-class architecture to D.C.—“and in turn reinvent the idea of the branch library for the 21st century,” noted G. Martin Moeller Jr., Assoc. AIA.

Today the project of transforming these 12 libraries is nearly finished—nine new branches are up and running—and ten have already won awards for either design or preservation. But most importantly, throngs of new patrons are visiting the information centers and gaining higher knowledge. One such library is the new Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library. Now a state-of-the-art facility, it features 55,000 books, CDs, DVDs and other library materials; 32 public access computers; free Wi-Fi Internet access; a large programming room for up to 100 people; two conference rooms for up to 14 people and study rooms.

“Continuing to improve education in the District of Columbia aggressively is one of my top priorities,” said Mayor Gray. “The library is an important part of the comprehensive approach to education that makes our residents more likely to be civically engaged and that contributes to our economic recovery.”

“All across the District, people are finding help with homework, resources for writing or improving their résumés and computer classes at their library,” said Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian for the District of Columbia. “As we look at the challenges ahead for the District, the library’s books, programs and spaces will continue to support education from birth to 24 and beyond.”

Librarians introduce children as young as six months to books using rhymes, music and other fun activities during weekly Story Times. Designed for the attention spans and developmental levels of different ages, Story Times incorporate the early literacy skills that children must master before they can learn to read.

Students get help with their homework by visiting their local branch in person or by going online to use Live Homework Help, a web-based service offering free one-on-one tutoring. Certified tutors are available every day from 2:00 p.m. until midnight for grades K-12, college intro and adult learners.


Green Library

Borrowing books from your local library is a great way to go green, but the Tenley-Friendship Library has taken the idea of green a step further. The building, designed by the Freelon Group in association with R. McGhee & Associates, is a modern sustainable masterpiece. Built on a previously-developed site in an urban area, it is of modest scale so as not to encroach on existing neighbors. Green spaces around the site include native and adaptive plants that require no irrigation for maintenance. There is also one continuous green roof that derives natural insulation from native plantings.

A skylight brings sunlight deep into the book stacks and main reading space while perforated vertical sunshades cover portions of the glass façade to help block unwanted heat gain and glare from the sun. Recycled materials—steel, glass and concrete—were used wherever possible and regional materials that could be sourced within a 500-mile radius were given high priority. The builders also sourced Forest Stewardship Council wood and low-VOC paints.

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