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Ashburn Library Checks Into Success

Four months after opening, Ashburn Library is almost as busy as the county’s largest library, Eastern Loudoun.

Ashburn Village resident Cindy Keegan used to take a trip to the library once a month, but now that the Ashburn Library is open, she goes every week.

"It was just a little far," Keegan said, adding that the Ashburn Library is more "convenient." "It's location is in the center of the community."

Keegan's daughter Kelynn, 10, likes that the library is closer and that "we could go more often. I like getting all kinds of books," she said.

THOUGH A SMALLER LIBRARY, Ashburn Library is circulating close to the same number of materials as Eastern Loudoun Regional Library, which opened in Cascades in 1992. So far, Ashburn has circulated about 20 percent of all of the materials the seven public libraries handle system wide, compared to Eastern Loudoun’s circulation of 25 to 27 percent.

"The reason we’re so successful is we’re finally here and we’re open," said Susan Coffman, children’s librarian.

When the library opened on Aug. 10, the shelves were packed with 70,000 new books and materials. Now, the shelves are emptier with thousands of books checked out. "We get new shipments all the time. We are trying to beef up the collection," Coffman said. "It’s nice and new. People like the books, and they like the way the building looks."

Since opening, Ashburn Library has circulated a total of 198,638 materials through the end of November, including books, books on tape, compact disks and other items and, in that time, issued 4,096 new library cards.

"Eastern Loudoun is still out-circulating Ashburn. It’s a larger community still, and it’s a larger library, and it’s open more hours," said Douglas Henderson, director of Loudoun County Library Services. "But they’re close."

The building housing Eastern Loudoun Regional Library is 30,000 square feet in size, compared to Ashburn Library’s 23,400 square feet, about the same size as Rust Library in Leesburg. Ashburn Library is closed Friday mornings due to lack of funding. Last year, Eastern Loudoun Regional Library was closed Sunday evenings, the only library that stayed open until 9 p.m., for the same reason.

BOTH THE ASHBURN and Eastern Loudoun libraries serve similar communities made up of families and children and "an emerging multicultural population," said Linda Holtslander, assistant director of programming and publicity for Library Services. The two libraries offer materials and a variety of programs for library users of all ages, including book discussions, author visits and cultural programs for adults and daily story times, performer visits and educational programs for children.

"Our children’s programs are going bonkers there," Henderson said.

So far, the Ashburn Library has offered 136 children’s programs attended by 8,697 children. Comparatively, Eastern Loudoun included 212 children’s programs in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 programming from July to November, serving 9,959 children. About 15,000 children live in Ashburn Library’s service area, which includes Ashburn and Ashburn Farm.

Ashburn Library also provides programming for young adults and teens and invites teens to join the Teen Advisory Board, which is still being formed to serve as an extension of the Ashburn Library Advisory Board. The Teen Advisory Board’s role will be to provide feedback and make suggestions on library materials, programming and events geared to teens, along with engaging in fund-raising activities to purchase the materials and help fund the programs. The library plans to start a teen café this week and a teen movie night next year.

"It’s nice to be in a new library with an excited community. They have been waiting for a library for a long time," said Jeanine Raghunathan, young adult librarian. "They had to go to Cascades, which is kind of a trek for them. Here, they can bring their children to story time fairly easily."

CIRCULATION at the county’s libraries is up 17 percent for the entire year, accounted in part by population growth, about 8 percent a year, and the rest to the opening of the Ashburn Library, Henderson said. "The libraries were not being built quickly enough for the high population areas," he said.

The Ashburn planning area has more than 42,800 residents, while Potomac has 41,200 residents and Sterling, 29,000 residents, as reported by the Department of Economic Development for 2002.

The Eastern Loudoun Regional Library was built before some of the development in Potomac and Sterling occurred, while the Ashburn Library was built after the population had already existed. "It was a large population not being served," Henderson said, adding that the residents had too far a distance to travel to use a library. The closest libraries were Eastern Loudoun and Rust.

Several Ashburn residents advocated for the Ashburn Library to be built three years sooner than the Board of Supervisors had planned in the county’s Capital Improvements Program (CIP), moving it from the 2002 to the 1999 ballot. "Ashburn was built with a better idea about the demographics," Henderson said. "We tried to design a building and supply [it with] what we felt would reach the demographics of that area."

The county held four community charette meetings to gather input on what residents wanted to see in their library. Ashburn Library was built with the largest children’s room of any of the county’s libraries, several meeting rooms for community meetings and an extensive audio-visual area with books on tape for commuters and other audio-visual items.

"The library reflects who is living in the community," Holtslander said.

THE ASHBURN LIBRARY is located within a residential development a few blocks away from Stone Bridge High School. Eastern Loudoun is across the street from the Cascades Marketplace shopping center. Some of the users of the Ashburn Library have a library within their neighborhood and in some cases, within walking distance. Users of the Eastern Loudoun library have access to a library while they are out running errands or driving along Route 7, close to the library’s location on Whitfield Place. The Ashburn Library is on Breezyhill Drive.

"We didn’t think we would have a big impact on Eastern Loudoun’s [circulation]. The same thing will happen when we build a library in Dulles," Henderson said.

The Dulles library is planned for bonding in FY 2005, along with a capital project to double the size of Eastern Loudoun to 60,000 square feet. The Dulles library is planned for 40,000 square feet to serve South Riding, Stone Ridge and the Route 50 area.

"There’s always people here. Especially if you have a children’s program, it’s very busy," Raghunathan said about the Ashburn Library.